Grizzlies eager to host 7-team volleyball tournament
by Chris Day
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Seven teams from seven different states spread from the banks of the Mississippi River to areas west of the Colorado will converge at Adams State College’s Plachy Hall starting Thursday as the Grizzlies will host the Best Western Alamosa Inn/Grizzly Inn Volleyball Classic that runs through Saturday.
ASC begins the tournament Thursday night at 7 p.m. as coach Lindy Mortensen’s squad will face Grand Canyon (Ariz.) in the first of 14 matches over three days. The Grizzlies will also end the tournament as they host Rockhurst (Mo.), ranked 22nd in the nation, on Saturday evening at 8 p.m. In between, ASC will face Winona State (Minn.) on Friday at 8:15 p.m. and Dixie State (Utah) on Saturday at 10 a.m.
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Western New Mexico and Heartland Conference member Texas-Permian Basin are also in town for the affair, the first non-conference volleyball tournament that ASC hosted in seven years.
Friday’s action, which includes six total matches, begins at 9 a.m. Saturday’s docket includes seven matches, starting at 8 a.m. Each of the seven teams will play four matches and a 10-member all-tournament team will be announced at the end of Saturday night’s play.
“We’re excited to play and have a chance to go against someone other than ourselves,” Mortensen, who is starting her third season at the helm of the program, said after leading the team through more than two weeks of training camp.
Hoping and expecting to bounce back from a rough 2006 season, the Grizzlies return four starters but also have welcomed six new freshman into the squad, made of 12 freshmen and sophomores and just four upperclassmen. “I don’t know if it’s more of a hunger or more of just straight excitement, but we’re ready to go,” Mortensen said. “We aren’t dwelling on last season and are focused on the season ahead. The chemistry is good and that’s due to the leadership with the kids on the team.”
Mortensen noted that sophomore middle blocker Darcy Jennings, an Honorable Mention All-RMAC selection in 2006, and junior libero Jessie Pickens have taken leadership of the team. “Brittany Muchmore (Peoria, Ariz.) is also such a stabilizing force as one of our three seniors,” Mortensen added.
“Although she’s not vocal, Andrea Tuck (Erie, Colo.) shows a quite leadership and is very competitive,” Mortensen said of the 6-foot redshirt sophomore outside hitter. Tuck, who redshirted because of NCAA transfer regulations, began her collegiate playing career as a true freshman at the University of Wyoming before transferring to Metro State and then to Mortensen’s program.
“She’s ready to prove what she can do and is ready to get back to competition,” Mortensen said.
With a young team, it should be no surprise that Mortensen plans for a young starting lineup that could include as many as five underclassmen, including a true freshman setter in Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.). “We’re thrilled with Mary. She is very mature for a freshman and it’s easy to forget that she is because of the skills and leadership she has shown in just two weeks of college volleyball,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen can also call upon the services of another freshman setter in Megan Hawkins (Elizabeth, Colo.). “Megan has been good about accepting a tough role of being a back-up,” Mortensen said while noting they may try to redshirt the 5-foot-9 former Elizabeth High School Cardinal.
The Grizzlies are young, but solid in the middle as Jennings and Gina Meyer-Smith (Blanding, Utah) both return for their sophomore seasons. The pair were two of the team’s three top hitters, behind All-RMAC selection Tiffany Stockebrand last season. Smith was recently married.
“Darcy and Gina are both very quick and bring a different aspect to our attack,” Mortensen said.
Mortensen said that Tuck will likely start at the outside hitter position. She may be joined by star-freshman Kimberly Ingram (Roswell, N.M.), depending on how the 5-foot-10 all-state player feels after battling some injuries during training camp.
Muchmore, who can play on both the left and right sides, may also be in the starting group, which will include either Pickens or sophomore Ronica Stanley, who split starts at the libero spot in 2006. “Jessie and Ronnie are quick and obviously play a huge part in our defensive scheme,” Mortensen said.
“It’s very nice that we don’t have to travel this weekend. It’s also nice for all the teams to see teams they don’t normally play,” Mortensen said. “The competition is great and playing a nationally-ranked team in our home gym is great.”
Related Item: Official Tournament Website