Grizzlies face must wins as five seniors hope to extend careers
ALAMOSA, Colo.— The Adams State College volleyball team was hoping that it would not come down to this. However, like it or not the Grizzlies are in a must-win situation as they wrap up the 2005 regular season, the first with coach Lindy Mortensen, by hosting a pair of critical Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference matches in Plachy Hall.
ASC hosts West Division leading Mesa State on Friday night at 7 o’clock before taking on Western State in the final home match for five Grizzly seniors, who will be honored before the first serve at 7 p.m.
The status of ASC’s RMAC Tournament hopes is surprisingly simple. The Grizzlies must win one more match than Fort Hays State, which hosts regionally-ranked Colorado Mines on Friday before taking on struggling Regis in its season finale on Saturday evening.
ASC, 10-14 overall, currently sits in ninth place in the overall RMAC standings with a 7-10 mark. The Tigers, 14-14 overall, are a match up at 8-9 but would lose any tiebreakers thanks to ASC’s 4-game head-to-head win on Oct. 8. That victory started ASC’s season-best 4-match winning streak in which the Grizz knocked off a trio of regionally-ranked teams. The Grizzlies have dropped three straight since and are now in need of at least one Tiger setback.
Although, ASC could possibly get in to the 8-team RMAC Tournament slated for Nov. 11-13 in Kearney, Neb. with just a weekend split, Mortensen and her players know that they need to win both and then hope for somebody to trip up the Tigers.
The problem is that Mesa State has just as much to play for, likely even more. The Mavericks (20-5, 13-4 RMAC) come into the weekend with a 1-match lead on New Mexico Highlands for the RMAC West Division lead. They play the Cowgirls on Saturday night but could clinch at least a tie for divisional title, which they also won in 2004, with a victory over ASC.
The Mavericks also have bigger aspirations. They currently sit fifth in the NCAA Division II Southwest Regional rankings. The top eight teams qualify for the regional tournament.
The Mavericks have rattled off five straight wins, four of which have come in 3-games sweeps. Winners of nine of their last 10 and 13 of 15, Dave Fleming’s squad has plenty of weapons. Junior outside hitter Stacey Vogel leads the list and the RMAC in kills with 370, a 4.81 per game average.
Sophomore right side hitter drew Choules and senior outside hitter Nikki Kneuer are not far behind with 3.69 and 3.44 per game averages. Choules also leads the RMAC in aces with 62 thanks to her tough jump serve.
The Grizzlies top hitter is junior outside Tiffany Stockebrand (Alamosa, Colo.), who trails only Vogel in kills per game with a 4.30 per game average. Stockebrand, a 6-footer, has had double-doubles in each of her last five matches.
Defensively, ASC has also fared well. Senior libero Jocelyn Garcia (Albuquerque, N.M.) is third in the entire RMAC with a 5.16 dig per game average. She eclipsed the 1,000-career dig mark in last Saturday’s match with Fort Lewis. Senior defensive specialist Carly Simpson (Kent, Wash.) is also ranked in the top 10 with a 3.69 per game average and has 1,358 career digs.
Senior middle blocker Kallee Bingham (Mesa, Ariz.) leads the Grizzlies in blocks with 79, a 0.92 per game mark. She also paces the Grizzlies with a .218 hitting percentage. Fellow senior middle Megan Jennings (Lakin, Kan.) is fourth on the squad with a .175 mark.
Saturday’s match with arch-rival Western State might be even more emotional for Emily Bussey, who has spent the better part of the last decade delighting Alamosa volleyball fans with her hard hits and smiling face, first at Alamosa High School, and now at ASC. The 5-foot-9 outside hitter has 291 kills and 267 digs this year alone and has over 800 kills in her 4-year career.
She’s hoping that the career doesn’t come to an end this weekend, which is full of pre and post-game activities.
Parents of the ASC players will be honored before Friday’s match and Grizzly Cub Club members will have the opportunity to meet the Grizzly players during a autograph session. Senior night festivities will then be held before Saturday’s match with Western State (6-20, 4-13 RMAC). Revenge will be on the minds of the Grizzlies, who suffered a 4-game setback to the Mountaineers six weeks ago in Gunnison.