Mavs get sweep on ‘Swing for Life’ night

Pink has a deeper, special meaning to Christian Otzen.

The Colorado Mesa University sophomore doesn’t just like the color, it’s a reminder of her mother, Danette, who was diagnosed with breast cancer more than a year ago.

Danette’s cancer is gone, and Christian, who returned home last winter to be with her, is back at CMU. Together, they celebrated the “Swing for Life” fundraiser in the Mavericks’ 25-12, 25-22, 25-13 victory over Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Western State Colorado University on Saturday night at Brownson Arena.

“I was a little choked up at the beginning, thinking about a year ago. It was so different,” Christian Otzen said. “She was up there bald from the chemo. You look up there (tonight), and she looks 100 percent better. You just thank God somehow she pulled through.”

Otzen, who wore a pink ribbon in her hair, and her Mesa teammates recognized Danette Otzen in the stands after prematch introductions.

“We’re just standing on the line, and Jordyn (Moody) goes, ‘We should all point to Mommy Otzen,’ ” CMU senior captain Sunni Rae Baird said. “We should, so we passed it down the line. She’s huge in all of our lives. We’re all a big family.”

The Swing for Life event reminded Christian what her mother went through with cancer treatment.

“Pink has always been something I support, but when it’s your mom, it changes your perspective 100 percent,” Christian said. “We all wore ... ‘For Danette’ on our warmups. It’s just a reminder she brought me into the world. She allowed me to play.”

Her mother’s presence inspired Christian and the Mavericks to play well against a Western State team that gave CMU fits last year.

“We talked about that after beating Adams (Friday night),” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “Kricket Adleman mentioned it. The big game is after the big game. We know what Western State did to us last year here. We didn’t take them lightly at all. I think that showed in the first game.”

Otzen got the Mavs (12-2, 5-1 RMAC) off to a good start with five of the team’s 14 kills in the first set. She finished with 10 kills for the match. Palisade High School alum Audrey Steinkirchner led CMU with 12 kills.

Defense played a big role for the Mavericks. They had 15 of their 53 digs in the first game.

“We were all a little energetic,” said Baird, who had 22 digs. “We were dancing around. We made things look a lot more difficult than they should’ve been, that’s for sure. As long as it’s up, we’re not going to complain.”

The Mountaineers (1-13, 0-6 RMAC) fought back in the second game, taking a 9-6 lead behind Montrose High graduate Kelsie Dardis, who had four of her nine kills in the set.

“We were down 6-9 when I called timeout. I would’ve been really worried last year,” Fleming said. “We’ve still got to learn from it. We’re still a young team with one senior out there. We can’t let that happen, but Kelsie is the reason that happened.”

Steinkirchner led a CMU rally with two kills during a 5-0 run for a 12-10 lead. Western came back to even the game 18-18, but Steinkirchner came through with three more kills to close out the game.

“Audrey was a staple for us in Game 2,” Fleming said. “She’s the reason we won that game.”

CMU took charge early in the third game with kills from Steinkirchner, Otzen, Melissa Hess and Erin Perez. The Mavericks went on an 8-2 run to close the game.

“We were all excited,” Otzen said. “We have so much potential. I think we all are cohesive as a team. If one person is struggling a bit, someone else will step in and help them. Even if it’s a little shaky, we know someone will be right there.”


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