Mesa State volleyball team goes back on the road

Well, that one home weekend was nice. See you next month.

“The team is tired,” Mesa State volleyball coach Dave Fleming said. “ We’re on the road a lot. That’s part of living in Grand Junction. We can’t get anyone to play us here nonconference.”

So the Mavs (4-5, 2-0 RMAC) will pack up the vans and head south this weekend to Durango to play RMAC West Division leader Fort Lewis (8-4, 3-0) tonight. On their way home, they’ll stop off Saturday night in Gunnison to play at Western State (3-8, 2-1).

“Obviously both are playing really well right now,” Fleming said. “Fort Lewis beat Western 3-1 Tuesday and they’re playing well at home. Their pin hitters look really good. (Jessica) Bailey was the player of the week and their young outside hitters look really good.”

The Skyhawks run a quick offense, so the Mavs are putting a lot of emphasis on their blocking game this week.

“Fort Lewis runs a more complex offense, a faster ball to the pins,” Fleming said. “We have to be more disciplined and touch more one-on-one. The block is very important and our serving is very important. We have to move their setter away from what they want to set so we can set the double block.”

Fleming likes the way the Mavs are blocking right now, even without their top middle blocker, Jessica Bird, still out with a broken finger on her right hand.

However, 5-foot-10 redshirt freshman Antoinette McCormick and 6-2 sophomore Lindsey Jefferson haven’t missed a beat.

“Antoinette is getting better and better on the floor,” Fleming said. “Lindsay had some bad habits because she didn’t play in the spring because of an injury. It’s taken her a little longer, but she’s turned the corner.”

With setter Tara King standing 5-9, she’s become a presence at the net on defense as well as running the show offensively.

Senior setter Dara Waialae and junior outside hitter Kristen Schnake left the team last week, leaving the Mavs with only one true setter.

It’s caused Fleming to alter his offense from a two-setter system to one, but he couldn’t argue with the results last week, a pair of three-game sweeps.

“I really liked the defense and what we did in the back row,” he said. “That’s as solid and complete a weekend as we’ve had since I’ve been here on first contact.

“One of the concerns is consistency. A couple of times we got anxious and thought we had to light the world on fire and get a kill right away. But because our back row is so good, they can trust the defense and know we’re going to get another shot at it.”

He also knows that unless King gets knocked off her feet, she’s going to get to the pass and set up the attack.

“T helps because she’s so good at pursuing,” Fleming said. “They’re comfortable knowing that if they get it in the air, the setter can go get it.”

Ashley Loftsgard, the RMAC defensive player of the week, sets the tone on the back row.

“I always say my middle blocker is my linebacker and Ashley is my free safety,” Fleming said. “She’s in charge if it gets past the linebacker.”


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