Middle of the attack
Mavs fight, but fall in McCormick's finale
Antoinette McCormick had never been in the position of having to win the final match of the season to reach the conference tournament.
And although the Colorado Mesa University volleyball team fell short in that quest Saturday, the Mavericks’ only senior left the court knowing the tone has been set for next season.
“I wish we would have had more fight toward the beginning of the season like we had tonight,” McCormick said after recording seven kills, two solo blocks and three block assists in the Mavericks’ 27-25, 25-20, 25-23 loss to Adams State at Brownson Arena.
“I definitely think we wouldn’t be in this position of having to win to be in RMAC. I think over my five years we’ve never been in the situation where we had to fight to go to RMAC.”
The Mavericks (11-17, 6-12 RMAC) failed to make the conference tournament for the first time in Dave Fleming’s seven years at the helm, and he pointed to the first week of the season as the key.
“You look back at our record, I really think if we went 3-1 at the Mines tournament when we had all those five-set matches instead of 1-3, the season could have been completely changed. It’s that little bit of confidence.”
Still, the Mavericks played as well as they have all season against the Grizzlies (18-8, 12-6), who host CSU-Pueblo on Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the RMAC tournament.
But just like their other losses, the Mavericks couldn’t get that key scoring run to take control.
“I think it goes back to the confidence, Adams has been playing well and they had more confidence when it’s 20-all to make something happen,” Fleming said. “We never quite got over the hump this year.”
Only five times in the entire match did either team hold the serve for more than three points.
In the first game, Rebecca Sellers served five straight points, with McCormick recording a stuff block in the middle to give the Mavs a 19-18 lead.
A kill through a double block by Haleigh Higgins made it 22-18, and it was 24-23 after Higgins and Rachael Beaty teamed up for a block.
The teams traded serves and points until Megan Tapia and Dominique Davis recorded back-to-back kills for the Grizzlies.
Sellers’ serving and a solo block by McCormick gave the Mavs a 4-0 lead in the second game, but again, with momentum shifting with every serve, the Grizzlies managed to scramble just a little bit better and keep the ball alive to win.
Higgins and Kelly Regimbal each finished with 12 kills and Sunni Rae Baird had 25 assists as the only available server.
Freshman Jordyn Moody missed the match with a concussion, one of a myriad of injuries the Mavs have dealt with all season.
As for McCormick, there are no more early morning practices, no more weight training, no more offseason conditioning.
Now there’s her wedding to plan (February) and graduation (May), then maybe a year off before starting physical therapy school.
“It’s everything like the coaches say, it’s all on your shoulders what you can do,” she said of her career. “They got it in my head my sophomore year that I can produce and I was willing to make those changes and thankfully I had great coaches back me up and help me improve and mature.”
The Mavericks ran their offense through the 5-10 middle blocker from Grand Junction.
“She did a good job for us. You basically look at our offense and we based our offense around what she could do, holding blockers for our outside hitters,” Fleming said. “She was the heart and soul of our offense and it’s going to be a tough change.”
With the majority of the team back next season, Fleming is ready to get started again — after a few days off.
“I told the team Monday, but we’ll probably give them little time off,” he said with a grin.
Despite running with a nagging foot injury, Colorado Mesa senior Alexis Skarda qualified for the NCAA Division II national championships for the third time by placing 16th in the Central Region race in Denver.
The top two individual runners not on the five qualifying teams advance to nationals, and Skarda was the first individual across the finish line not on the teams from Western State, Adams State, Augustana (S.D), University of Mary and Minnesota-Duluth.
Skarda finished the 6-kilometer race in 23 minutes, 47 seconds. Western State’s Lauren Kleppin won in 22:13.
The Mavericks finished eighth as a team with 244 points. Kelsey Follett, running despite heel spurs, finished 36th in 24:45, Brooke Bosman was 46th (25:05), Melissa Bauer 70th (25:52), and Shannon Emery 76th (26:10). Amanda Anderson placed 84th (26:30) and Mayra Garcia 97th (27:01).
Western placed four runners in the top 10 and won the meet with 37 points.
The first-year men’s program finished 20th with 584 points. Shane Niksic placed 96th in the 8-kilometer race at Washington Park in 37:46. Casey Vaughn was 113th (39:14), Daniel Cicnero 121st (40:54), Jonathon Carlton 125th (41;18), Edgar Hernandez 129th (42:50), Connor Hill 131st (43:22) and Erik Scherf 135th (45:03).
Adams State’s five runners all placed in the top 10 as the Grizzlies ran away with the men’s title with 28 points.
Western was second with 61, and the Mountaineers’ Gabriel Proctor just beat Adams State’s Tabor Stevens to the finish line. Proctor crossed in 32:10, Stevens in 32:12.
Adams, Western, Colorado Mines, Augustana, CU-Colorado Springs and Metro State qualified their men’s teams for nationals.