Seeding for RMAC tourney on the line for Mavs in New Mexico

PHOTO BY DANIELLE STOMBERG—Mesa State Volleyball player Tara King.

It all came together last weekend for the Mesa State College volleyball team — in the nick of time.

And now the Mavericks can go back out on the road knowing that if they win, they’ll be the best team in the RMAC West Division, the No. 2 seed in the RMAC tournament and can inch closer to a spot in the NCAA playoffs.

There is a kicker, though.

If the Mavs lose, they could tumble all the way down to one of the lower seeds in the tournament and be in danger of slipping away from the regionals.

“If we lose that match to Western (New Mexico) who knows where we’d end up,” Mesa State coach Dave Fleming said. “We’re not three or four. It could be (sixth or seventh).”

Before the Mavericks (13-11, 11-6 RMAC) play Western New Mexico (19-7, 13-5) on Saturday night, they’ll have to contend with New Mexico Highlands (8-19, 2-16) tonight at John A. Wilson Complex, a place that hasn’t been kind to the Mavericks lately.

In sports terms, tonight’s match is a trap game.

“It’s basically ... our seed’s done,” Fleming said of what falling to the Cowboys would mean. “(The Mavs) understand it’s a hostile environment and they like to play Mesa. This is their postseason. If they can kind of screw up our seeding, that’s their victory, their postseason. We can’t go down there and only think about Western New Mexico. We’ve got to go in there and be focused on Highlands. They’re good volleyball players, too.”

The Mavs swept both Western New Mexico and Highlands during the first go-round of the RMAC West schedule, but the Mustangs have won eight of their past 10 matches, including sweeping Highlands on Tuesday night, to move into first place in the West. Mesa State and Fort Lewis are tied for second.

Fleming wants the Mavs to remember what they did and how they played last weekend in downing Western State and Fort Lewis at home, and take that on the bus to the Land of Enchantment.

“Obviously we’d love to have them replicate what they did on both of those matches and even turn it up a notch,” he said. “I told them they played great, but let’s not be satisfied. I think we can still play better. Why not?

“I’ve seen this team in practice and we’re so deep and we can bring more in every position. It’s just a little bit of consistency. If we score three points in a row, it takes us two points to get back that sense of urgency.

“If we can get over those little hurdles, score four points in a row and turn up that sense of urgency, let’s go for six and not let them get it back.”

A big reason for the Mavs’ recent surge back toward the top of the division is the steady play of setter Tara King.

The sophomore from Steamboat Springs was selected the RMAC setter of the week, not only for distributing the ball, but for her play at the net, recording two solo blocks.

“(Setters) are supposed to be a liability up there,” Fleming said.

At the net, the 5-foot-9 setter doesn’t shy away from blocking. She has 31 assisted blocks and six solo blocks, tied for third on the team, this season.

“She’s probably a better blocker as a solo blocker than when she’s got a middle over there with her,” Fleming said. “She understands she has to take up more space that way.”

King, who redshirted last year after being in a car accident, knows her team, Fleming said.

“T’s getting better and better at (making the right choices), when to set the middles and when not to, and finding the hot hitter. She’s so stinkin’ athletic.

“She chases down bad passes better than any setter in the RMAC ... and she will run you over if you try to get in her way.”


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