Grizzlies hoping homestand returns success
by Chris Day
ALAMOSA, Colo.ó The Adams State College volleyball returns home to Plachy Hall for two important Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference matches this weekend. Third-year Coach Lindy Mortensen and her Grizzlies are hoping that the return to playing in front of a home crowd helps ASC bounce back from a difficult road swing that saw the Grizzlies drop 4-game matches at Fort Lewis and Mesa State as they fell out of a first-place tie in the RMAC West Division standings.
They now have a chance to get back into that position as they host division-leading Western New Mexico University on Friday before hosting a struggling New Mexico Highlands University squad on Saturday. Both matches begin at 7 p.m. ASC then heads out on the road for six of their next nine matches before finishing the regular season with three of their final four in Plachy Hall.
The Grizzlies, stand 6-6 overall and 2-2 in RMAC play and were riding a 3-match winning streak before committing 17 service errors 12 reception errors at Fort Lewis last Friday night. An impressive 22-kill effort from sophomore Andrea Tuck (Erie, Colo.) was then not enough to overcome 15 more service errors as the Grizzlies dropped an even closer 4-game match to Mesa State, which tallied a dozen aces, on Saturday.
Western New Mexico comes into Fridayís match winners of four straight, all at home. The Mustangs, 8-4 overall, hold sole possession of first place in the West Division with a spotless 4-0 RMAC mark.
New Mexico Highlands has not fared nearly as well of late as the Cowgirls (3-10, 1-3 RMAC) have dropped seven of their last eight. However, they did post a 4-game win over Mesa State on Sept. 8, their lone RMAC win in four tries.
Tuck, a 6-foot outside hitter, has been superb throughout the 2007 season and leads the RMAC in both kills (4.78) and points (5.13) per game. The former University of Wyoming player also ranks tenth in the RMAC in hitting percentage with team-best .286 mark but has been far from alone as numerous other Grizzlies have turned in strong efforts in the early portion of the season.
Both sophomore middle blocker Darcy Jennings (Lakin, Kan.) and freshman setter Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.) have been named as RMAC West Division/Baden Players of the Week this year.
Jennings, who was an honorable mention selection in 2006, leads the Grizzlies in blocking with 41, a 0.91 per game average. She has also averaged 2.78 kills, 2.98 digs and 0.40 service aces per game all while hitting a solid .246. She has five double-doubles on the season and ranks tenth in the RMAC in service aces.
McNeil also has five double-doubles this year and earned the RMAC Player of the Week honor just a week after Jennings. The 5-foot-9 Paradise Valley High School product has already eclipsed the 50-assist mark in four different matches this season and ranks second in the RMAC in assists per game (11.60). She also leads the Grizzlies in service aces with 19, a 0.42 per game average that is tied for sixth best in the RMAC.
McNeil was just one kill shy of a triple-double in ASCís last home match, a thrilling 4-game victory over Western State, which also stands 2-2 in RMAC play heading into home matches against Fort Lewis (8-5, 3-2 RMAC) and Mesa State (5-8, 1-4 RMAC) this weekend.
Western New Mexico is making its second trip to Plachy Hall this year. The Mustangs went 3-1 at the Best Western Alamosa Inn/Grizzly Inn Volleyball Classic last month but did not face the Grizzlies in the tournament. Senior setter Courtney Heiser is a big part of their success and is the reigning RMAC Setter of the Year. Heiser has hit at an impressive .349 this season, third best in the RMAC, and is averaging 10.23 assists per game.
Many of those assists have gone to outside hitters Tirzah Armenta and Natali Murdock both of whom average more than three kills per game. The Mustangs won last yearís RMAC Regular Season Championship and use a variety of lineups that have seen 10 different players see time in 30 or more of the teamís 40 games.
Junior libero Jessica Lindgren has been an exception to that rule and has played in all 40 games for 2006 RMAC Coach of the Year Jim Callender, digging up an even 200 attacks. She ranks third in the RMAC in digs per game with a 5.00 per game average.
The Cowgirls have a small team of 10 players, all of who play regularly. Senior outside hitter Jasmine Morris leads Tom Dukeís squad in kills with 161, a 3.66 per game average. Junior outside hitter Ashley Murray averages 3.33 kills per game and also paces the Cowgirls in service aces with 24, a 0.52 per game average that is second best in the RMAC.
The Cowgirls have two setters, both of whom have seen considerable time at the position. Senior Amber Pohl has 290 assists this year while Vanessa Garcia, a junior, has recorded 220, most of them coming after she took over the role in the win over Mesa State.