Trouble with the serve

Mesa's serving mistakes costly in loss to Mines

Colorado Mesa’s Haleigh Higgins records a kill Friday night over the block of Mines’ Danielle Johnson-Hazelwood in the Orediggers’ 25-18, 25-21, 25-18 victory. Johnson-Hazelwood had 33 assists in the win.

Serving a volleyball isn’t just a matter of getting the ball over the net.

Friday night at Brownson Arena, the Colorado Mesa University volleyball team had trouble with that aspect of the game, and it played right into the sure hands of Colorado School of Mines setter Danielle Johnson-Hazelwood.

“Zero aces, seven misses,” CMU coach Dave Fleming said. “I can deal with seven misses if we have seven aces, but yeah, a team like that, you’ve gotta serve tough.”

The 12th-ranked Orediggers swept the Mavericks 25-18, 25-21, 25-18 to push farther ahead of the Mavericks in the overall Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings. Mines (15-4, 9-1) stayed in contention to host the conference tournament next month, with the Mavericks (13-4, 7-2) falling a game behind in the loss column.

“They come in on a roll, eight wins in a row, and you’ve gotta serve tough,” Fleming said. “You’ve got to force that setter to do what she doesn’t want to do, and she could do whatever she wanted tonight.”

Johnson-Hazelwood, a freshman from Cypress, Texas, had 33 assists — one more than the Mavericks had as a team — and had her choice of hitters after getting good passes to set.

Senior outside hitter Jackie Stabell was the No. 1 option, with 16 kills, and senior middle hitter Holly Hutchison was next with 10.

“She’s a freshman, and she did a great job of isolating their hitters, and our blockers had no idea what they were doing,” Fleming said. “That goes to Danielle Johnson-Hazelwood. She just did a really nice job. When you have a setter like that and an outside that can terminate, it opens up so many options.”

The Mavericks weren’t completely out of the match, though. Some lineup changes in the second game resulted in a quick lead thanks to freshman Abby Ney. The left-hander caused all kinds of problems for the Orediggers’ blockers, who couldn’t get a read on the unique angle on the middle attack. She finished with 10 kills, six in the second set alone.

“Abby’s always been good at that. When we’re struggling as a team she comes in and lights a fire,” Fleming said. “It’s hard to block a left-handed middle. That’s her role, and she’s very good at it.

“I think she’s got that mentality that she can be successful, and that’s super-important at this level. I know every one of our kids can be successful at this level; I just don’t know if they know it.”

Ney had three kills and was in on a block in the first eight points of the second set as Mesa took a 6-2 lead.

“Our freshmen, we make an impact, and that’s why Coach is going to put the best players on the court, freshmen or seniors,” Ney said.

Not only did Ney bring some offense off the bench, but some emotion, pumping her fist after big plays and getting the momentum on the Mavs’ side of the floor.

Mines, though, doesn’t rattle easily, and steadily chipped away at the lead.

A kill by Sarah Pekarek tied the game at 11-11, and she and Ney traded kills for four straight points. Two serving errors, though, killed Mesa’s momentum, and Melanie Wannamaker recorded a kill in the middle for the Orediggers for a 21-19 lead.

A great defensive point, with both teams scrambling to make plays to keep the ball alive and swinging away time after time, ended when Pekarek tipped a ball over Mesa’s double block.

Stabell followed with an ace and a kill to get it to game point.

Kelly Regimbal fought off one with a kill down the line, but Hutchison ended the game by hitting through Mesa’s block.

“It’s a big week for us, and we all believe in ourselves,” Ney said. “Our coaches believe in us. It’s just going to take that mentality. I know we can get there. Tonight we weren’t on, but that’s OK, because there are a lot more matches to play.”

Mesa took a 7-3 lead in the second game, but again, Mines’ experience allowed the Orediggers to reclaim the momentum and win the match.

“That’s why they’re 12th in the country,” Fleming said of the Orediggers’ veterans. “I think on paper, athlete-to-athlete, sure, we can match up, but right now they’re just a better team than we are.

“Tonight they were a better team.”


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