Grizzlies begin crucial homestand against No. 7 Lopers
ASC to host CSU-Pueblo in Tuesday Blackout promotion
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Sandwiched smack in the middle of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings, the Adams State College volleyball team will host teams heading in totally opposite directions Thursday and Friday before concluding what could be a make-or-break 3-match homestand on Tuesday night against Colorado State University-Pueblo.
First serves for all three matches will be at 7 p.m. in Plachy Hall.
The Grizzlies, 9-9 overall and 6-5 in RMAC play, currently hold eighth place in the overall RMAC standings but are within a match of three other teams as they prepare to host the University of Nebraska-Kearney Lopers on Thursday night. UNK has won 21 straight matches after dropping their season opener on the Hawaiian island and is a perfect 10-0 in RMAC play.
The Lopers, who have never lost to ASC in 20 all-time meetings, began the season ranked 14th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll and have gradually moved up the ladder to a tie for seventh. Coach Rick Squires’ squad has been ranked in the top 10 for a month.
On Friday, the Grizzlies will host Chadron State, which has struggled lately. The Eagles won their first two matches of the season but have dropped 17 of their last 18 since falling to 3-17 overall and to 1-9 in RMAC play. They take on CSU-Pueblo in the ThunderWolves’ Massari Arena on Thursday before heading over La Veta pass for their first trip to Plachy Hall since 2005.
On Tuesday, the Grizzlies play host CSU-Pueblo in a re-match of ASC’s Sept. 23 4-set win in Pueblo. The ThunderWolves are now 3-16 overall and 1-10 in RMAC play but snapped a 12-match slide with a 5-set win over Colorado Christian last Thursday, the same team the Grizzlies had to fight off four match points against before them in a 5-set Friday night win in Lakewood.
The ThunderWolves then dropped matches at Regis and Metro State— as did ASC over the weekend— before falling Tuesday night at home to rival UC-Colorado Springs.
Tuesday’s match will also be ASC’s “Blackout” promotion as the Grizzlies will try to better their single-match history attendance record of 703, set on Oct. 2 against Colorado Mines, a match that was held in conjunction with an Alamosa High School/Pueblo County High School affair. The first 50 fans to arrive will receive a free black ASC Volleyball T-Shirt, which will also be sold for $6 for fans outside of the first 50.
The Grizzly softball team will also be selling barbecue sandwiches at the match.
The Grizzlies, who are just one match ahead of UC-Colorado Springs for what amounts to be the final RMAC Tournament spot as of now, are a solid 4-1 at home this season with their loss coming in five sets by just three points to Western New Mexico on Sept. 20.
They have been led throughout the season by junior outside hitter Andrea Tuck (Erie, Colo.) and junior middle hitter Darcy Jennings (Lakin, Kan.). Tuck paces the entire conference with 301 kills, an average of 4.01 per set and total points with 334.0. Ranking 11th in the nation in kills per set, Tuck had a phenomenal effort in last Friday’s win at Colorado Christian putting down a career-high 28 kills.
Jennings is second on the team with 191 kills, an average of 2.55 per set, and ranks third in the RMAC with her 0.95 block per set average. Jennings also leads the Grizzly squad with a .311 hitting percentage, fifth best in the RMAC and has 247.5 total points this season and 1,092 in her 2-time All-RMAC career. She is just 10 total points away from ASC’s NCAA Division II era (1992-Present) record of 1,102, currently held by Amy Cousin, and could certainly break that record as soon as Thursday.
The Grizzlies have also been adjusting to a new setter as redshirt freshman Megan Hawkins (Elizabeth, Colo.) has started the last four matches after replacing starter Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.), who went down with a knee injury in the second set of the Oct. 2 win over Colorado Mines.
Hawkins has done just fine putting up very comparable numbers to McNeil. She has averaged 8.90 assist per game and a had a career-high 57 in last Friday’s win at Colorado Christian, a night after she recorded her first career double-double in a 5-set heartbreaking loss at Metro State.
It is no surprise that the Lopers have had a strong season as they have a balanced attack of four active players averaging more than two kills per game. Sophomore middle hitter Jeri Walkowiak, the reigning RMAC Offensive Player of the Week, leads the way and has put down 221 kills, good for a 3.30 per set average. She also paces the team with 56 blocks, a 0.84 per set average, and is hitting .340 this season, the third best mark in the RMAC.
Junior middle hitter Nikki Scott, the RMAC Preseason Player of the Year has also been a beast for opposing teams and leads the RMAC with a .350 hitting percentage as she has recorded 193 kills to go along with 40 blocks.
If that were not enough, the Lopers are also solid in the back row as junior libero Kelli Wemhoff, the RMAC’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, is averaging 4.23 digs per set and is one of just five Lopers with more than 100 this season.
Sophomore setter Cola Svec, who has been named as the RMAC Setter of the Week in each of the last three weeks, leads the RMAC with her 10.95 assist per set average and leads the Loper attack that is hitting an RMAC-best .250 this season.
CSC does not have as many dominant players but still has solid talent, most notably in sophomore outside hitter Lindsy Heisler, who averaged a team-best 2.87 kills per game, and senior libero Jennifer Luatua, who leads the RMAC with her 5.67 dig per game mark.
The Eagles have been at home for their last eight matches but meet ASC in the middle of a 3-match road trip that ends at Western State on Saturday.
CSU-Pueblo, which will enter Plachy Hall after hosting Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday afternoon, has also had a balanced attack this year. Lindsay Black, who was a standout basketball player for the Pack prior to this season, leads the team with 114 kills and 45 blocks while Taren Frazier paces the team with 168 digs.
Fans that can not make the matches in person can catch them on a subscription basis through B2 Networks or can follow them using the live statistics link on ASC’s official website (www.ascgrizzlies.com)
The Nebraska-Kearney and Colorado State-Pueblo matches will also be broadcast live on KSPK-FM (104.1 in Alamosa) and via the internet at www.kspk.com.