7-0 run gives Cowgirls 5-game match
ALAMOSA, Colo.— The New Mexico Highlands University Cowgirls scored seven straight points in the final game as they handed the Adams State College Grizzlies their first 5-game defeat of the season in an important Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference match on Tuesday night in Plachy Hall. Senior Christian Carle had two of her match-high 25 kills in the run that gave NMHU a 13-7 lead en-route to a 15-10 fifth game win.
The win allowed NMHU to improve to 16-6 overall and to 11-5 in RMAC action as they clinched a RMAC Tournament spot for the second straight year. The Cowgirls are also just a half-match behind RMAC West Division co-leaders Mesa State (18-5, 11-4 RMAC) and UC-Colorado Springs (15-9, 11-4 RMAC), which also clinched RMAC Tournament spots thanks to the ASC loss.
The Grizzlies had some fine efforts and overcame a two games to one deficit to force the fifth game but dropped to 10-13 overall and to 7-9 in RMAC action with the 19-30, 30-28, 30-21, 25-30, 15-10 loss.
ASC was paced by junior outside hitter Tiffany Stockebrand (Alamosa, Colo.) who recorded a career-high 24 kills while picking up her fourth straight double-double with 11 digs. She also had four blocks and a solid .345 attack percentage. Senior middle blocker Kallee Bingham (Mesa, Ariz.) also registered a career-high 16 kills while hitting .395. Senior outside hitter Emily Bussey (Alamosa, Colo.) recorded her third straight and team-leading 12th double-double of the season with 15 kills and as many digs, while freshman setter Tagen Bierley (Colorado Springs, Colo.) set a new career-high with 63 assists in the 1-hour and 52-minute battle in which ASC hit a solid .272.
NMHU junior outside hitter Audra Williams had 24 kills, 15 digs and a .309 attack percentage, while senior Nikki Revling put down 20 kills. Sophomore setter Amber Pohl doled out 60 assists for the Cowgirls in the last four games. She did not start the match but was inserted into the Cowgirl lineup for game 2.
That decision by NMHU coach Tom Duke proved to be invaluable as Pohl recorded 37 assists in games 2 and 3 alone. The Cowgirls recorded 20 kills in each set. NMHU hit .370 in the second game and .513 in a well-played third.
The efforts came after game 1, when ASC recorded five of their 11 service aces while forcing the Cowgirls into nine hitting errors as they cruised to the 11-point win in the opener.
The Cowgirls never led in the first game but never trailed in the second as they built a 27-22 lead on a Grizzly hitting error before Bingham triggered a 3-0 Grizzly run to cut the deficit to just two. Carle then answered for NMHU before Bussey and Bingham kills closed the gap to 28-27.
Carle, who had nine kills in game 2, found the hole once again giving NMHU a pair of game points, the first of which was erased by a Stockebrand tally. Revling and Jessica Mumma then combined to block Stockebrand on the second game point as NMHU evened the match.
The Grizzlies also hit the ball well in game 3 as Bierley dished out 16 assists en-route to a .333 team attack percentage. However, ASC could simply not keep pace with the Williams, who had eight kills in the set, and the Cowgirls. NMHU recorded two of their 10 blocks in an important 5-1 spurt that gave them a 22-17 lead.
The Grizzlies cut that gap to three before a Carle kill and Martha Montano service ace triggered a 8-2 game-ending run.
The Grizzlies trailed 16-14 in the fourth game, which included 12 ties and eight lead changes. They then used a 5-0 run, started by one of NMHU’s 11 service errors, to take a 19-16 lead. The Grizzlies never relinquished that advantage and closed out the game with a 8-3 run that included three of Brittany Muchmore’s (Peoria, Ariz.) 11 kills.
The fifth game started with the longest rally of the match, finally ended by a Stockebrand smash. Senior defensive specialist Carly Simpson (Kent, Wash.) had three pretty digs in that rally alone as she tied Erin Folsom and Kaylene Granado for third place on ASC’s career digs chart. Simpson would go on to have one of her team co-leading 21 digs later in the game to pass the pair of former ASC standouts. Senior libero Jocelyn Garcia (Albuquerque, N.M.) also had 21 digs on the night and is now just 18 shy of 1,000 for her career.
ASC coach Lindy Mortensen and the Grizzly players would certainly have traded the career-highs and milestones for a victory.
The teams simply played evenly in the fifth game with neither team leading by more than one until NMHU’s 7-0 run erased a slight 7-6 Grizzly edge.
ASC did valiantly fight off a couple of match points after trailing 14-8 on a Revling kill before Jessica Mumma recorded the night’s only solo block to end the match.
NMHU finished the night with a .289 attack percentage thanks to 80 kills on 204 attempts. The Grizzlies had a season-high 71 kills and also had a 87-69 advantage in team digs.
The Grizzlies are now a half-match behind Fort Hays State University for the eighth and final RMAC Tournament spot. The Tigers (13-13, 7-8 RMAC) have four matches remaining including road matches at Colorado Christian (1-24, 0-15 RMAC) and Metro State (16-6, 12-3 RMAC) on Friday and Saturday, respectively. ASC hosts Fort Lewis (9-14, 9-7 RMAC) on Saturday night and will close out the regular season with home matches against Mesa State and Western State (5-19, 3-12 RMAC) on Nov. 4 and 5, respectively. ASC does have the tiebreaker over the Tigers thanks to a 4-game win on Oct. 18 but would likely lose a tiebreaker to Colorado State-Pueblo (10-13), now just a half-match behind ASC at 7-10 in RMAC action.