Grizzlies suffer tight 4-game loss in critical match at NMHU
LAS VEGAS, N.M.— Winning the first game by a 30-26 margin, the Adams State College Grizzly volleyball team watched New Mexico Highlands University take the next three sets by just 10 combined points as the Cowgirls posted a critical and tight 4-game Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference volleyball win over the Grizzlies on Tuesday night in the Wilson Complex. The 26-30, 30-25, 30-27, 31-29 win allowed NMHU to improve to 11-12 overall and 9-7 in RMAC play, a full two matches ahead of the now 12-11 (7-9 RMAC) Grizzlies.
With three road matches remaining, ASC is now just ahead of CU-Colorado Springs and Chadron State, which each have 6-9 records, for the eighth and final RMAC Tournament spot. If all three teams finished in a tie, UCCS would receive the spot by virtue of the best head-to-head records amongst the teams. The Grizzlies would also lose a 2-way tiebreaker with Chadron State because of a 5-game loss to the Eagles on Oct. 16, but could win a 2-way tiebreaker with the Mountain Lions after the teams split regular season 4-game matches.
Whoever claims that spot will likely receive the challenge of traveling to Kearney, Neb. for a RMAC Tournament quarterfinal match with the nation's top-ranked University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers, an undefeated 28-0 squad that has all but clinched the RMAC's regular season championship.
NMHU's Audra Williams and Christian Carle each put down 20 kills to lead the way while Lauren Noriega had a match-high 37 digs.
ASC received a team-high 17 kills from Ashton Thomas while junior libero Carly Simpson matched a career-high with 32 digs. Brittany Muchmore, Emily Bussey and Megan Jennings were also in double figures for kills while senior setter Monica Garcia recorded one of the team's two double-doubles with 10 digs and a match-high 50 assists. Bussey, who joined Jennings with 10 kills, had the other after digging up 12 Cowgirl attacks.
All four of the games came down to the closing stages.
Trailing 21-18 in the first, the Grizzlies used a 8-2 run to take a 26-23 lead. Using three Kallee Bingham kills in a 5-rally span down the stretch, ASC eventually claimed the set on one of NMHU's 13 service miscues.
The second game's outcome was a total reversal as a 5-0 Cowgirl run snapped a 21-21 second set tie. Williams had kills on each of the first three points in that stretch and then watched an ASC service error end it.
The third game was also tied at 21 and again at 22 before a 4-0 run, which featured three straight Williams kills, gave NMHU a 26-22 lead. The Grizzlies rallied to within one at 28-27 thanks to three hitting miscues and a Jennings block before a Carle kill and Grizzly hitting error put NMHU ahead after three games.
Game four was also tied at 21 and 22 before a 4-1 Grizzly spurt, sparked by a Thomas kill gave ASC a 27-23 lead forcing NMHU to call a timeout. The Cowgirls' Julie Burdue, who had 12 kills while hitting an impressive .370 then responded, with a kill before a NMHU service error returned the favor giving ASC a 28-24 lead.
However, the Cowgirls would not go away as they scored the next three points to close to within 28-27 before a Williams attacking error gave ASC it's first game point at 29-27. ASC appeared to win the set on the very next point when Williams' spike sailed out. However, the referees ruled that the Grizzlies touched the ball at the net keeping NMHU alive in the fourth set.
The Cowgirls took full advantage of the break as they tied the game at 29 on a Muchmore hitting error before Williams and Kelsey Anderson kills finished off the 1 hour and 56-minute victory, that was witnessed by 400 fans.
The Grizzlies now face a must-win on Saturday at 7 p.m. Fort Lewis College in Durango. FLC is 5-18 overall and 2-13 heading into a Friday night match with NMHU.