Right where he belongs: Raines feeling comfortable playing keeper for Mavs

The play of Mesa State goalkeeper Chris Raines is the main reason the Mavs still have a chance to make the RMAC playoffs with one more win. Raines has a goals-against average of 1.18 and his ability to get his defenders in good position is a big plus.



QUICKREAD

Women’s Soccer

Friday: at N.M. Highlands, 3 p.m.; Sunday: at CSU-Pueblo 2:30 p.m.

Despite their 2-7-1 conference record, the Mavericks aren’t out of the playoff picture. It won’t be easy, though — Mesa State must win its final four games and get a little help from the three teams ahead of them in the standings to get the No. 6 seed. Nebraska-Kearney is currently the sixth seed, but the Lopers tied Colorado Christian on Sunday, opening the door a little wider for Mesa, which plays three teams in the lower half of the standings in its final four games, all on the road.

“You have to assume certain things, like Fort Lewis and Metro are going to beat (Kearney), but assuming that happens and even if they beat their other two opponents, we’re in the driver’s seat if we win our next four games,” coach Erin Sharpe said. “We control our own destiny. There’s a possibility that we would only have to win three, but we’re not banking on that. Four would guarantee if everything else happens the way it should.”

Unlucky has been the word of the season for the Mavericks, who have had problems scoring goals all season. Other than a pair of 3-0 victories against Adams State and CSU-Pueblo and a 3-2 loss to CU-Colorado Springs, it’s been a one- or zero-goal effort all season.

“It’s not like we’re off frame, we’re actually on frame,” Sharpe said. “We’re hitting the post plenty, we’re hitting the crossbar plenty. There’s a little bit of an element of luck that we need to find.”

Volleyball

Friday: CSU-Pueblo, 7 p.m., Brownson Arena; Sunday: Western State, 4 p.m., Brownson Arena

Friday is the Mavs’ “Spike Cancer” game, with the team wearing pink tie-dyed jerseys. Several items will be auctioned off, including the seniors’ jerseys, with proceeds going to cancer research. It’s also the final home weekend of the season for Mesa State (14-7, 8-4 RMAC), which has moved two matches ahead of Fort Lewis atop the West Division standings. The Mavericks have won nine of their past 10 matches, with seven of those wins being three-game sweeps.

CSU-Pueblo has struggled this season, winning only six matches, two in conference play, with Western State two games out of playoff contention. The top team in each division, plus the next six teams regardless of division, reach the RMAC tournament in Kearney, Neb., Nov. 11-13.

Cross Country

Saturday: at Mountaineer Open, 9 a.m., Gunnison

Mesa State fell out of the national top 25 this week, but will run against the best teams in the nation this weekend in Gunnison.

Alexis Skarda won the Metro State Invitational 6K race last week, with the Mavericks finishing fourth as a team.

Western State is ranked sixth in the nation this week. Top-ranked Adams State is running in the New Mexico Highlands Jam this weekend in Las Vegas, N.M.

Swimming/Diving

Friday-Saturday: at Rocky Mountain Invitational, all day, Golden

After a weekend of competing against Division I teams at Wyoming and at the University of Denver Relays, the Mavericks will face a familiar opponent, Colorado School of Mines, in the Orediggers’ invitational. Mesa State defeated Mines earlier this season in men’s and women’s competition and has used its depth on both teams to dominate Division II opponents.



Four schools in four years, but now Chris Raines seems to have found a home in front of the goal at Mesa State College.

The Mavericks’ 6-foot-4 senior goalkeeper attended Cherokee Trail High School, where he played baseball and soccer. He went to Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs his freshman year and played soccer, then transferred to Garden City (Kan.) Community College.

“Garden City was the biggest transformation for soccer and schools,” he said. “That place really helped me out. We were really good and got looked at by a lot of scouts. That was probably the biggest change I had to make.”

So off he went to Queens College in Charlotte, N.C., but after one season, he started looking to move again.

“I wasn’t comfortable there and didn’t have a good situation,” he said. “I just wanted to come home.”

He had played against Mesa State his freshman year at Colorado Mountain College, but didn’t put much thought into playing for the Mavs back then. However, it seemed like a good choice after starting keeper Josh Tinaglia graduated, so he transferred again and won the starting keeper’s job.

“The team’s really taken me in and just blending with everybody, everybody really gets along well,” Raines said.

He’s not only fit in quickly with the Mavericks, but has taken to the role of directing traffic in front of him, constantly talking to the defense and getting players into the right spots.

“We really are on the same page with so many seniors together,” Raines said. “We all have the experience and we all know what to expect and how to play. Most of these guys, Alex (Mattevi), Jake (Jobe) and Mitch (Reid) have played together for awhile. I’m glad I got in and understood how they played. It’s been easy how well we communicate on and off the field.”

Raines is 4-6-2 in goal for the Mavericks (7-6-2, 3-6-2-RMAC), allowing 15 goals in 14 games, an average of 1.18 goals per game. He’s made 44 saves and has recorded three shutouts.

His play in goal is one reason the Mavericks can lock up a spot in the RMAC tournament if they beat CU-Colorado Springs at 7 p.m. on Friday at Walker Field, their final home game of the season. Reaching the conference tournament would be a huge step for a program that won only two games last season after a rash of injuries and disciplinary problems.

For a guy who didn’t start playing soccer seriously until his sophomore year in high school, Raines has become a force with his long arms and good footwork.

“I was always a baseball player in high school, never a soccer player,” he said. “I just got ahold of it pretty quick and started to learn and got pretty good at it. I never knew how good I really was until I played against other good keepers and good teams. I’m still growing, still learning.

“In high school I started figuring out I’m better (at soccer). I liked playing soccer more than baseball.

“I was getting better at it than at baseball and it just took over. I never planned on playing in college until my senior year. I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere with baseball.”

The Mavericks’ 1-0 loss to top-ranked Colorado School of Mines 21⁄2 weeks ago gave them all kinds of confidence.

They tied No. 17 Regis 0-0, then lost 3-1 to No. 6 Metro State before a 1-0 loss to No. 25 Fort Lewis, playing well in all four games despite not getting a victory.

Then they held off CSU-Pueblo on Sunday 2-1 and can clinch the sixth and final playoff spot if they beat UCCS on Friday at home before finishing the regular season at CSU-Pueblo and Regis.

“In this part of the year we can really make a run at it,” Raines said a couple of days after the Mines game. “We still have a lot of games where we can do something, put ourselves in a good position. Going into the tournament, if we keep building like we have and go into the tournament this way, it’s exciting to see what we can do.”


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