Mesa volleyball team hopes changes lead to better result vs. Metro

Embrace change.

That’s the message Dave Fleming had for the Colorado Mesa volleyball team when it returned from Thanksgiving, eager to prepare for the Mavericks’ third straight trip to the NCAA playoffs.

Fleming isn’t blowing everything up, but knows it’s time to give Metro State a look the Roadrunners haven’t seen, especially since the teams faced off twice in the past month.

“They have a very solid setter, they have five good attackers,” Fleming said. “I don’t know that they have any great attackers, so we have to put pressure on them so their setter doesn’t get to set what she wants to set. We have to serve tough, get them out of system when we’re serving and when we’re attacking, take away what those attackers want to hit.

“We’ve done some different things with our defense and our blocking to make adjustments on those things. We’re of the mindset that Metro’s not going to make any changes because they’ve been so successful this year and they probably don’t need to make any big changes.”

Colorado Mesa (18-9) plays Metro (25-4) at 1:30 this afternoon in the South Central Region quarterfinals at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas.

Before they hopped on a charter flight Tuesday, sophomore outside hitter MacKenzie Edwards said the Mavericks, indeed, are embracing the changes Fleming installed.

The Mavs’ coach wasn’t about to reveal just what they have in store, but said returning to a two-setter rotation was a possibility, which would allow CMU to have three blockers/attackers on the front row at all times.

Other adjustments in Mesa’s defense and blocking schemes were also implemented, and some players could even shift positions to boost the block.

“It has been a transition but I think everyone’s really excited for it because it’s something we’ve never tried,” Edwards said. “I think everyone is looking forward to seeing how well it will work. I think it will work well against Metro just because it’ll be something different and they’ve never seen it; it’s going to be great.”

When the Mavericks returned to campus from Thanksgiving, Fleming had each of them stand up in front of the team and talk about 30 seconds of their competitive careers they’d like to relive. Several talked about their signature victories over Tarleton State, the No. 3 seed in this week’s regional, and Colorado School of Mines, seeded No. 4.

“We bring that stuff up, a lot of positive things,” Fleming said. “I really, truly believe we are one contact away from being a team that can compete for a regional championship. We’ve got to go out there and find it.”

Fleming has also brought up being the underdogs this week, encouraging the Mavericks to hold nothing back. He brought up how Arkansas Fort Smith came into Brownson Arena as the No. 7 seed in the region two years ago and ended up going to the Elite Eight, upending CMU in the title match.

He also reminded them that as the No. 7 seed last season, the Mavericks took on No. 2 seed Tarleton State and ended the TexAnns’ season, scoring seven straight points to turn a 13-8 deficit in the fifth set into a 15-13 upset victory and a spot in the semifinals.

“It’s the same feeling as last year against Tarleton,” Fleming said. “Tarleton had the ‘Dream Season’ T-shirts out and were the 2 seed and thought they would go right through us and didn’t. We do pretty well in that role.”

Edwards said the Mavericks believe the pressure is on Metro, ranked No. 19 in the nation.

“Oh, definitely, 100 percent,” she said. “Everyone’s expecting us to roll over and die and that Metro will win it all, but we’re going to put up a good fight.”

The freshmen, Fleming said, don’t quite know what to expect from the regional experience, but did expect to qualify for the national playoffs. The upperclassmen were taken aback by that, knowing just how hard it is to reach the playoffs, but, he said, he likes that the Mavs have come to expect to compete at that level.

“The expectations we have for this program are we should be competing for championships,” he said. “The last part of the season was rough for us but we’re going to remember how we played in the NCAA tournament.”

And, he said, it just takes that one play.

“It’s really the team that gets hot at the right time,” Fleming said. “I think we’re a contact away from being the best team in the region. We just have to find that one contact. Hopefully it’s early in Game 1 against Metro and we go from there.

“If this team builds some momentum, we can do a lot of damage.”


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