Laband helps send UCCS to RMAC title match

By Doug Fitzgerald published November 10, 2007

KEARNEY, Neb. -- The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs came out for warm-ups prior to Saturday's Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament semifinal against Adams State sporting T-shirts that said, ‘the more difficult the challenge, the sweeter the victory.'

With apologies to Jackie Gleason, how sweet it is.

Behind a career-high 19 kills by Stephanie Laband, the Mountain Lions are headed to the championship game by virtue of a 3-1 (30-23, 24-30, 30-28, 30-28) victory over the Grizzlies at the Health and Sports Center. UCCS will play host Nebraska-Kearney in the RMAC championship game Sunday at 3 p.m. CST.

"The girls knew that they had the ability to be here," said UCCS coach Jessica Wood. "They put in the time to be of one mind and to truly be a team.

"But we've got another match to play."

Laband, whose previous best was 15 kills against Metro State on Oct. 20, had just two errors and hit a robust .415.

She had an amazing match," said Wood. "She was seeing the block and the setters did a great job of creating a split for her."

But Laband wasn't the only contributor for the Mountain Lions (20-10). Brooke Akers (15), Heidi Fehringer (13) and Diane Sheldon (10) all registered double-digit kills. Lauren Orth added nine, several of which were in clutch situations, and Andrea Weedman had eight. Setters Jessica Stewart and Cortney Weedman had 36 and 32 assists respectively.

Andrea Weedman keyed the UCCS defense with 25 digs, while Laura Meeter added 23 and Laband 14.

Andrea Tuck led Adams State (15-14) with 26 kills.

Adams entered the tournament as the No. 7 seed, but had won six of its past seven, including a tough 3-2 win over No. 2 seed Fort Lewis on Friday.

Behind two four-point runs and another of three, Adams State built a 15-14 lead in Game 1 Saturday. A strong service game by Akers, though, helped UCCS forge a 5-0 run. After the Grizzlies scored one, the Mountain Lions answered with five more to make it 24-16. Adams State scored five of the next seven to shrink the deficit, but kills by Laband, Sheldon and Fehringer helped UCCS close out a 30-23 decision.

Laband had six kills and Fehringer five in the game as the Mountain Lions outhit the Grizzlies .375 to .116. UCCS was unusually accurate with only four hitting errors, three of which were as a result of Adams State blocks.

The Grizzlies showed no lingering effects; putting together a 14-4 run that gave them a 15-7 lead in Game 2. UCCS would reduce the lead to three on four occasions but never fully recovered, dropping the game 30-24. Tuck had eight kills in the game for Adams State.

"They turned it up a gear," said Laband. "They threw some new things at us and pulled themselves together."

The Mountain Lions dug themselves another hole in the third game, quickly falling behind 10-5. UCCS was still trailing, 22-17, when a pair of blocks by Akers and Orth helped the Mountain Lions complete a 5-0 run to tie. The teams traded points down the stretch before a pair of kills by Orth allowed UCCS to escape with a 30-28 decision. Sheldon had six kills and Laband and Akers each added five for the Mountain Lions.

Game 4 featured impossibly long rallies caused, in part, by strong net play by both teams. With UCCS holding a slim 24-22 lead, Wood called timeout.

"It was a strategizing session," said Laband. "Tuck had been slipping by us and we needed to calm down and do what we know how to do."

The Mountain Lions responded. Akers had a kill and an ace and Fehringer and Weedman combined for a block to put UCCS up 27-22. Two kills by Orth finished the game, 30-28, and the match.

"It feels overwhelming; at the same time, it's what we expected," said Laband of heading to the title match. "It's been a long time coming. We've been working towards this for years."

While Wood and the Mountain Lions regard Saturday's win as just one step towards a larger goal, the journey to this point has certainly been difficult. UCCS started the season 2-7 while playing several nationally-ranked opponents. That put the Mountain Lions in a hole as far as regional qualifying was concerned. But they have gone a remarkable 18-3 since, including Saturday's semifinal win. They're also a lock to make it to the Southwest Regional tournament, which begins Thursday, for the first time in program history.

The T-shirts are right. It is very, very sweet.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OH/DSSr.
Andrea WeedmanAndrea Weedman9OHFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Laura MeeterLaura Meeter6S/LFr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Diane SheldonDiane Sheldon11OH/RSSr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Stephanie LabandStephanie Laband15OH/RSSr.
Heidi FehringerHeidi Fehringer7MB
Heidi FehringerHeidi Fehringer7MB
Lauren OrthLauren Orth5OHFr.
Lauren OrthLauren Orth5OHFr.
Lauren OrthLauren Orth5OHFr.
Cortney WeedmanCortney Weedman14S
Cortney WeedmanCortney Weedman14S
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