McNeil-less Grizzlies fall in five at CSU-Pueblo
ASC rally falls short
PUEBLO, Colo.— Outside hitter Alea Wildman put down 20 kills while hitting .341 as the Colorado State University-Pueblo ThunderWolves bested the visiting Adams State College Grizzlies for the first time in four years, Thursday night in five sets here in the Massari Arena.
The ThunderWolves, who also got a solid 58-assist, 10-dig double-double effort from setter Tasha Greer and a match-high 27 digs from libero Ashley Michel, improved to 9-15 overall and to 4-12 in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play while the Grizzlies, playing without NCAA Division II era (1992-Present) career assists record holder Mary McNeil (Phoenix, Ariz.) due to injury, dropped to 8-15 and to 5-10 in RMAC play while all but mathematically being eliminated from RMAC Tournament contention.
The ThunderWolves hit at a .350 clip or better in each of the three sets that they won and hit .252 overall.
The Grizzlies hit just .150 throughout the night dropping the first and second sets by 25-18 and 25-16 scores, respectively, before holding on for dear life with a 26-24 third set win. They then evened the match with a 25-18 victory in the fourth but dropped the fifth set 15-12 falling 3 ½ matches behind Colorado Christian, Fort Lewis and Western New Mexico, who all enter the penultimate weekend of conference play with 8-6 RMAC records.
UC-Colorado Springs is also ahead of the Grizzlies at 5-7 in RMAC play and just a half-match behind the Cougars, Skyhawks and Mustangs who would earn the final three playoff spots if the season was complete.
The Grizzlies, who have just three matches remaining on the slate, starting Saturday at Western State, which fell to the Pack on Tuesday night, received a team-high 14 kills from sophomore Dominique Davis (Denver, Colo.) and another 10 from fellow outside hitter Laura Loosbrock (Alamosa, Colo.), a true freshman, but could not keep up with Wildman and the ThunderWolves, who had four players in double figures for kills helping the hosts to a commanding 69-47 advantage in total team kills.
Sophomore Vanessa Cushnie (Kamuela, Hawai’i), normally a reserve right side hitter and defensive specialist, received her first career start at setter in place of McNeil and recorded 40 assists and six digs.
Freshman right side hitter Letisha Spencer (Rio Rancho, N.M.) also tallied eight kills and four digs while freshman Megan Tapia (Pueblo, Colo.) tallied nine kills, seven digs and a team-high four blocks in her first return to her hometown. The Pueblo South High School product also tallied a team-best .364 hitting percentage to aid the cause.
The Grizzlies, who had won seven straight matches between the teams dating back to 2007, truly missed McNeil in the opening two frames as they hit just a combined .114 while quickly falling behind two sets to none.
However, they continued the fight and gutted out a win in an error-plagued third set as Cushnie started to settle in to her new role.
Leading 20-16 late in the frame, the Grizzlies watched Tamia Herholz, who finished with 16 kills and nine digs, put down back-to-back points before the teams exchanged miscues to make the score 21-19 in favor of the Grizzlies. Tapia then put down a kill before two Grizzly hitting errors in a 3-1 Pack run made the score 23-22 triggering a Grizzly timeout.
A CSU-Pueblo hitting error, one 30 they made on the night, then gave the Grizzlies two set points. However, Bernandette Pitre and Herholz put down kills to erase both of those only to see teammate Brittany Doole commit one of the Pack’s 11 service errors before Herholz’s potential set-tying shot sailed out.
With a 14-12 lead in the fourth set, the Grizzlies then went on an 8-3 run to seize control of the frame and eventually won it on a Cushnie and Deprece Washington (Johnstown, Colo.) block.
After hitting .250 in the fourth set, by far their best mark of the night, the Grizzlies appeared to have the momentum to claim the match but watched the hosts put down 10 kills while hitting .412 in the fifth set that swung in their favor with a 4-0 run triggered by a Wildman kill.
Gina Abbott, who had 13 kills and six blocks, continued that spurt with a kill of her own and then teamed with Ashley Wilkinson on back-to-back blocks in the stretch that put the Pack up 4-2.
The Grizzlies would continue the fight and were within a single point of four separate occasions, including at 10-9 after two consecutive Davis kills, but could not get over the hump as two hitting errors followed, putting the ThunderWolves up by three points (12-9), the final margin of victory in the decisive fifth set.
The Grizzlies, who are just 1-7 on the road this season, will play their final road match of the campaign Saturday night in Gunnison against Western State (9-13, 4-11 RMAC). First serve is at 7 p.m. and will give the Grizzlies a chance at avenging an Oct. 1 3-set loss to the Mountaineers.