Mountain Lions come up big in Crunch time to upset Fort Lewis

By Doug Fitzgerald published October 18, 2008

COLORADO SPRINGS- Mountain Lions, meet crunch time.

The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs scored a coming-of-age sort of win Saturday evening, upsetting the Fort Lewis Skyhawks 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 25-12).

“It was the best game we've played this season,” said setter Jessica Stewart, the lone senior on a roster featuring six freshmen and two sophomores."œThat was the most fun we've had as a team. We were rallying and being really scrappy.

“It was kind of a second gear we kicked it into.”

That second gear may be the portents of a change of character. UCCS has, all too often this season, been satisfied with taking a set against good teams. Friday, a new definition of satisfaction was discovered.

“We finally took ownership of our own house,” said UCCS coach Jessica Wood, whose team has forged a mediocre 5-8 record at home this season. The veteran 2007 Mountain Lions, by contrast, were a perfect 9-0 in the quirky confines of the Lions'Den.

“We played with pride; we played with heart. (The team) played the game we knew they could play. Everybody did their job; everybody took care of business.

“They wanted this bad.”

But as badly as UCCS wanted the win, it was Fort Lewis that responded under pressure early.

The Skyhawks had 315 raucous UCCS fans holding their breath by coming nearly all the way back from a 23-15 deficit in the first set. The exhale was audible as a Lauren Orth kill let the Mountain Lions escape with a 25-23 win.

The second set saw the Skyhawks again performing in the clutch. Trailing 20-18, they rallied for a 7-2 close to even the match at a set each.

But it was UCCS that rallied late in the third set.

“They finally put up the fight that needs to be there,” said Wood."œThey decided (losing) wasn't going to be an option.”

Trailing 19-18, an Andrea Brodie kill tied the set. After the teams traded a point each, an errant Fort Lewis attack, two Molly Crockett kills and a service ace by Brodie put the Mountain Lions at set point. A point later, what fans were calling a"œCrockett rocket” ended the set.

Something else happened that was less noticeable than Crockett's bombs. Stewart scored three of her five kills in the set, all on dump shots.

““They weren't respecting me; they weren't going up with me for the block,” said Stewart, who also had 38 assists."œThat gave me leeway to attack.”

Those three tips over the net changed much of the dynamic of the Fort Lewis defense. Forced to hold as Stewart set the ball, the middle blockers were often a step late in responded to an attack from the outside. That allowed outside hitters Crockett, who had a team-high 15 kills, Orth (eight) and Brodie (seven) to face a lot of one-on-one blocks.

The result was dramatic as UCCS hit .316 in the third set and .419 in the fourth. The Mountain Lions'.262 hitting mark for the match was their second best of the season.

That final set was never close as UCCS raced to a 12-3 lead. After Fort Lewis closed to within five, the Mountain Lions responded with four straight to go ahead 17-8. Kim Boogaard had two kills as UCCS sealed the match by scoring the final six points.

UCCS had only one non-block hitting error in the final two sets and only six for the match.

Fort Lewis, which came into Saturday's match tied for the lead in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference's Western Division, dropped to 14-7, 9-4 in conference play. UCCS improved to 11-11, 6-7 in the RMAC.

Crockett and Kelsey Pobar led the UCCS defense with 15 digs each, while Brodie added 12 digs and assisted on five of the Mountain Lions'eight blocks. Middle blockers Boogaard and Karina Miastkowska added nine and five kills respectively.

Chelsea Flaming led Fort Lewis with 21 kills, 10 in the first set alone.

The Mountain Lions, who have won four of their past six matches, will be at home for the final time next weekend. They will face Chadron State on Friday and Colorado School of Mines on Saturday before wrapping up the regular season with four road matches. The Mountain Lions hope to build upon Saturday's progress in those final six matches

“We had great all-around play (Saturday) and we really began coming together as a team,” said Stewart."œThat was the most fun I've had all season.”

Coming up big in crunch time always feels that way.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
Jessica StewartJessica Stewart8SJr.
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