Grizzlies claim 5-set thriller over WNMU
Jennings-Calkins leads ASC, which can claim No. 7 seed with Senior Night win
ALAMOSA, Colo.— Senior middle hitter Darcy Jennings-Calkins (Lakin, Kan.) recorded a career-high matching 27 kills while finishing with 13 blocks and a career-high 34.5 total points as the Adams State College Grizzlies stormed back from two sets down to take a key 5-set Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference thriller over Western New Mexico University, Friday night in Plachy Hall.
The Grizzlies, who used an impressive 16-0 run to lead the way in the fourth set, survived a fifth-set match point at 16-15 before two straight blocks handed the Grizzlies the 21-25, 18-25, 25-21, 25-14, 17-15 victory. The Grizzlies, who also got a solid 52-assist, 8-block night from junior setter Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.) and 13 kills from freshman outside hitter Callyn Weyenberg (Gilbert, Ariz.), improved to 13-13 overall and to 10-8 in RMAC play, good enough for sole possession of second place in the RMAC West Division and seventh place in the overall RMAC standings.
The Mustangs, who entered the night tied with the Grizzlies, fell to 11-15 overall and to a match behind the Grizzlies in the RMAC standings at 9-9 despite a fine 26-kill night from junior outside hitter Natali Murdock.
Provided the Grizzlies can defeat 1-27 (0-18 RMAC) New Mexico Highlands on Saturday, the Grizzlies will earn the seventh seed in next week’s RMAC Tournament which will allow them to avoid tournament host Nebraska-Kearney Lopers, the fourth ranked team in the nation, in the first two rounds. Instead, the Grizzlies would face West Division Champion Mesa State College Mavericks for the third time this season in the quarterfinal round.
Western New Mexico, which had already clinched a tournament berth as well, will now draw the Lopers unless they defeat Colorado State-Pueblo in their season finale on Saturday while getting help from the struggling Cowgirls.
The Grizzlies, who have overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their last two home matches, finished the match with an 18-8.5 edge in total blocks and recorded five blocks in the fifth set alone. Jennings-Calkins also had five kills in that frame as the Grizzlies came from 10-8 down to tie the set on Weyenberg and Jennings-Calkins kills.
However, the Mustangs came right back as they went up on 12-10 on back-to-back Murdock kills only two watch Jennings-Calkins record a kill and a solo block in a 3-0 run that put the Grizzlies up 13-12.
Murdock responded to tie the set once again before an impressive leaping dump-kill by McNeil gave the Grizzlies a 14-13 lead and their first match point of the evening.
Outside hitter Heather Rux, who tallied 18 kills off the bench for the Mustangs, then responded to tie the set at 14 before she teamed with Jordan Johnston to give the Mustangs a match point at 15-14.
After a Grizzly timeout, Jennings-Calkins put down her final kill of the night before McNeil and junior middle hitter Kelsey Miller (Las Animas, Colo.) teamed to block Rux giving ASC another match point at 16-15.
Jennings-Calkins then served again as Miller and Dominique Davis (Denver, Colo.) blocked right side hitter Ziona Verhulsdonk. The ball went down to the floor just inside the sideline giving the Grizzlies the win.
Early on in the night, it looked as if the Grizzlies would never get that close as Murdock put down seven kills in the first set alone as the visitors, who had defeated the Grizzlies back on Sept. 19 in Silver City, N.M. used a 5-2 run to open up a 21-18 lead en-route to the victory finished off by a Verhulsdonk kill, one of 13 she had during the match.
The Mustangs, who had defeated the Grizzlies in Plachy Hall during each of the last three seasons, were even more impressive in the second set as they hit .393 while breaking open an early 7-7 tie with a 5-0 run behind the serving of Verhulsdonk, a Hawai’I Prepatory Academy teammate of Grizzly right side hitter Vanessa Cushnie (Kamuela, Hawai’i), who had nine digs for ASC.
Leading 12-7 at the time, the Mustangs continued to roll and eventually finished the set off with a block by setter Ellen East and Christine Pina.
Out-hit .312 to .122 in the first two sets combined, the Grizzlies then started to gel early in the third set as they jumped out to a 7-2 lead before extending that lead to 14-7 on a Cushnie kill minutes later.
The Mustangs would claw back to within 20-17 on a 4-0 run that included two Rux kills.
The teams then exchanged points throughout much of the rest of the set as Jennings put it away with her 15th kill.
The Mustangs would then jump out to a 4-1 lead early in the fourth set before the Grizzlies went on their massive run with sophomore Kelsey Huckle (Gunnison, Colo.) at the service line.
The Mustangs could do nothing as two Huckle aces, four Jennings-Calkins kills and four blocks, all of which involved Jennings-Calkins, highlighted the run that put the Grizzlies up 17-4.
Utterly flustered, the Mustangs tried everything including going deep into their bench, which ultimately led to confusing and them being out of rotation.
That mental mistake gave the Grizzlies a 24-12 lead more than enough of a cushion for the Grizzlies to force the decisive fifth set that was tied 11 times and included seven lead changes.
The Mustangs, who used 14 different players on the night, finished with a .225 to .207 advantage in hitting percentage as East tallied 53 assists and a team-high 18 digs. She also moved to a right side hitter position in the fourth set and tallied three kills on the night.
Sophomore libero AJ Palmer (Colorado Springs, Colo.) led the Grizzly back-row with 21 digs while Marilee Frost, who played as the Mustangs’ libero in the second through fifth sets, tallied 12 for the visitors.
The Grizzlies close out the regular season Saturday at 7 p.m. as they take on the Cowgirls, who fell in three sets at Colorado State-Pueblo. The match will be preceded by Senior Night festivities that will honor Jennings-Calkins, ASC’s lone senior.
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