Methodical Mustangs: Western New Mexico’s slow style bothers Mavs in loss

Outside hitter Haleigh Higgins of CMU trys to hit a shot into the middle against Western New Mexico.

Colorado Mesa University plays high-octane volleyball.

Western New Mexico University does not.

Down 2-0 Saturday night at Brownson Arena, the Mustangs lulled CMU into their style of play and came away with a 
21-25, 20-25, 25-21, 25-16, 15-7 upset of the Mavericks.

“I think they’re very methodical,” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “They’re not high energy all the time, they can kind of lull you to sleep and they know that.”

But, he said, that shouldn’t have had that much of an impact on what the Mavericks did when they were on the attack.

“When the ball’s on our side of the net, they can’t come over (and play the ball),” he said.

And how the Mavericks (9-3, 3-1 RMAC) ran their attack after the second game cost them.

They didn’t hit exceptionally well all night, but the last two games were the worst, as they were out of their system from the get-go.

Mesa had a negative hitting efficiency in the fourth game, with 10 hitting errors and nine kills, and was barely better than that in the final game, with six kills and five errors.

“Western New Mexico made a good adjustment,” Fleming said. “The line was open for Reggie (right-side hitter Kelly Regimbal) early and they started to block her line and we didn’t adjust to that. As a team, as players, you have to make adjustments and we didn’t tonight.”

Conversely, the Mustangs (5-9, 2-2) had twice as many kills (10) as errors in the fourth game and didn’t have a hitting error in the final game, controlling play after a foul-up by the officials as to who was supposed to serve.

A lengthy delay followed the first point so the officials and the scorers could get on the same page.

The Mavs opted to receive, but the floor official indicated they were to serve. Western New Mexico coach Jim Callender set his rotation to receive, but ended up serving, and lost the first point.

It didn’t much matter in the end, because the Mustangs quickly recovered. Leading 7-4 after Angelina Pulu scored on a tip over the block, she went to the service line and by the time she rotated over, the Mustangs were up 12-5.

Pulu, the second-leading hitter in the conference, averaging 3.91 kills per game, finished with 24 kills and just as many digs.

“She was doing the same things to us,” Fleming said. “Let her beat us once, but not twice. The fifth game, the tip right over the block. How is that ball hitting the ground? Thirty-two hitting errors from our pin hitters. That’s just not good volleyball.”

The Mavericks have been balanced on the attack all season, but never really get into the flow of the match.

Their passing game was off, causing the setters to scramble to try to get the ball to the hitters. Middle hitter Melissa Hess had 14 kills and was scoring points consistently early.

“We couldn’t get her the ball enough,” Fleming said. “We couldn’t pass well enough to get her the ball and our hitters wouldn’t take swings when we were out of system. It wasn’t very pretty volleyball.”

The first two games, the Mavericks never really made a big scoring run, but never let Western New Mexico get more than a couple of points ahead.

Two aces and kills by Hess and Haleigh Higgins put the first game away, and the Mavs controlled the second game at the net.

Three straight errors in the third game gave the Mustangs 10-6 lead. Despite fighting back to 17-15 on a kill by Abby Ney and two dump passes for kills by setter Jordyn Moody to make it 22-19, Mesa couldn’t put enough balls away to finish it.

A long dig over the net by Megan Rush was tipped back over by Pulu to make it 24-20, but Hess fought off one game point with a kill.

A CMU serving error sealed it for Western New Mexico, which took a 10-1 lead in the fourth game to seize control of the match.

Regimbal finished with 11 kills and Higgins and Christian Otzen had seven each.

The Mavericks hit the road this week, at No. 25 Adams State and Western State, needing to snap out of their inconsistent play.

“We told them before game three, it’s a long road trip for (the Mustangs), they lost last night, came over Red Mountain Pass, it’s an opportunity to put the nail in the coffin,” Fleming said. “What we did on our side of the net opened the door for them.”


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