Otzen delivers key win for CMU volleyball team

Colorado Mesa University outside hitter Christian Otzen records a kill over the double block of Jazmine Harge and Mariah Culpepper from New Mexico Highlands on Saturday night.

Christian Otzen wasn’t going to let Colorado Mesa’s volleyball team lose its home finale.

The sophomore outside hitter picked up her teammates, leading the Mavericks to a 25-12, 22-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-4 victory over New Mexico Highlands on Saturday night at Brownson Arena.

“I didn’t want us to go down like that,” Otzen said. “We have too much potential. There’s way too much we have to accomplish. There’s no way we’re going down that way.”

As a result, the Mavericks finished in a five-way tie for third place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. By virtue of a tiebreaker, Mesa (21-7, 13-6 RMAC) will be the No. 3 seed and play Colorado Christian (19-10, 13-6 RMAC) on Tuesday night in the first round of the RMAC tournament.

Otzen had a career-best 28 kills — six off the individual single-match school record. She hit .434 and had 17 digs.

“I had nothing to do with that,” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “Something lit a fire under her and holy cow.

“We’d be on a bus Monday morning if it wasn’t for her.”

Abby Ney added 12 kills with a .647 attack percentage and Melissa Hess had 11 kills with a .348 attack percentage. Jordyn Moody had 59 assists and senior libero Sunni Rae Baird had 27 digs.

Otzen nearly had as many kills as Ney or Hess by the end of the second set with 10. She had another six kills in the third set and had 10 kills with no errors in the fourth set.

“I think tonight the biggest thing was Jordyn was pushing the ball a little bit faster than usual,” Otzen said. “The pins were pulling for us every time and I had it wide open.

“I took big swings and I got blocked a couple times but we picked it up every time. It’s just trusting no matter what, they’re going to get that ball.”

Mesa had a strong start, going on a 13-3 run to lead 17-7. Audrey Steinkirchner had four kills to go with Otzen’s five.

Highlands (12-17, 6-13 RMAC) refused to fold the tent and quit.

The Cowboys went on a 9-5 run to even the second set 14-14. The teams were tied six more times before Highlands won five of the last seven points for a 25-22 win.

“Kudos to Highlands,” Fleming said, “They could’ve rolled over and died. Their season’s over and we (the coaches) told (the Mavs) we can’t give them confidence on the other side of the net. We did a good job in game one. Game two we weren’t fighting. We let them hang around. Their hitters were getting kills consistently against our block.”

Mesa didn’t have an answer for Highlands in the third set either as the Cowboys took an early 10-5 lead and pushed it to 16-6. The Mavs closed the gap, getting to within two points before Highlands closed it out for a 2-1 lead.

“There was a lull in that game,” Otzen said. “We always say someone’s got to step up. I always try to be that one, but there was no other time. It was now or never.”


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