Grizzlies start season, tourney with 3-game sweep of GCU
by Chris Day
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Led by 30 kills from sophomore Andrea Tuck (Erie, Colo.) and Brittany Muchmore (Peoria, Ariz.), both outside hitters, and a superb career-starting effort by true freshman setter Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.), the Adams State College Grizzly volleyball team posted a 30-28, 30-23, 30-26 sweep over the Grand Canyon (Ariz.) University ‘Lopes in the opening match of the Best Western Alamosa Inn/Grizzly Inn Volleyball Classic on Thursday night in Plachy Hall.
Tuck, who redshirted last season, put down a match-high 18 kills, including eight in the first game alone, as the Grizzlies overcame a 26-23 deficit with a 7-2 set-closing run. Muchmore, the only senior to play for third-year coach Lindy Mortensen on Thursday, registered 12 kills while hitting an impressive .500 on 18 attempts. McNeil, a 2007 Paradise Valley High School graduate, dished out 39 assists in her first career match against her hometown team. She also had four kills and three service aces leading the Grizzly attack that hit .265 overall and .333 in the third game.
The ‘Lopes were led by Shea Robinson, who had nine kills and six blocks, both team-highs. Robinson also hit .421.
The first game was tied on 10 separate occasions, most of them in the early going. GCU then built a 26-21 lead before a Darcy Jennings (Lakin, Kan.) kill started ASC’s comeback.
Two GCU miscues then gave ASC a 28-27 lead before the teams traded errors giving McNeil a serve at game point. She made the most of it tallying an ace as the Grizzlies went up a set.
“We were down in the first game and made a come back. Sometimes teams send messages to themselves and that’s what we did tonight,” Mortensen said. “After that first game they (ASC) saw that if you keep fighting good things can happen.”
The ‘Lopes also came out firing in Game 2 taking a 10-6 lead. However, the Grizzlies came roaring back using a 6-0 run with Jennings behind the service line to go up 15-12. The Grizzlies never relinquished that lead scoring seven of the final 10 points to go into the intermission happy.
The third game was more of the same as the ‘Lopes came out of the break to build an 8-3 lead before an 8-1 run behind Gina Meyer-Smith (Blanding, Utah) serving gave the Grizz an 11-9 lead. GCU did not give up and came back to tie the set at 12 before the Grizzlies gradually built a 21-17 lead.
Again, the ‘Lopes did not give up coming back to tie the set at 25 on a Robinson kill before Katie Meyers committed a service error after a Grizzly timeout. GCU junior outside hitter Shauna Nieman then put down a kill to tie the set at 26 before committing another service error, the start of a 4-0 match-ending run that was capped with two Muchmore kills.
“It’s amazing how much we have come together as a team,” Tuck said. “Our chemistry was just awesome tonight. We just went out their and did what we had to do and it felt better than anything I saw last year,” the redshirt sophomore said.
Mortensen had similar thoughts. “It’s amazing how close-knit this team is after just two weeks,” she said.
The Grizzlies dominated most of the statistics posting a 53-33 edge in kills. They also had a big 8-2 advantage in service aces but did fall victim to a 9-4 ‘Lope blocking prowess. Defensively, ASC received a match-high 12 digs from junior libero Jessie Pickens (Cortez, Colo.). Jennings had three blocks.
The Grizzlies will play three more matches in the tournament, which runs through Saturday. Action begins at 9 a.m. on Friday with a match between Dixie State (Utah) and Texas-Permian Basin. The Grizzlies close the day with an 8:15 p.m. match with Winona State (Minn.).