UCCS Sweeps Colorado Christian in Opening RMAC Match

By Doug Fitzgerald published September 8, 2009

LAKEWOOD, Colo. - A dominant defense led University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' first-year volleyball coach Keith Barnett to a win in his first Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference match, 3-0 (25-10, 25-16, 25-23) over Colorado Christian Tuesday evening at Cougar Arena.

The Mountain Lions' defense was stifling throughout the match, holding the Cougars to a dismal -.071 hitting percentage. Much of the credit for that went to defensive specialists Kendall Utz, who played libero, and Kelsey Pobar. Utz finished with 12 digs and Pobar six.

"I thought we played really good defense," said Barnett. "Pobar and Kendall dug a lot of balls and, between the two of them, it makes our defense tough. As long as our block is disciplined and as long as we're doing what we've been taught, hopefully it continues."

The block was certainly disciplined Tuesday. The Mountain Lions blocked 11 Cougar attacks and altered many more. In trying to hit over and around the UCCS front wall, Colorado Christian committed 23 hitting errors in addition to those actually blocked.

"We try to funnel them into certain spots to our best defenders," said UCCS outside hitter Sonja Johnson, who led the Mountain Lions in kills with six and also had four digs. "We tried to not be the ones who made mistakes and see what they could do."

The answer was "˜not much.' Kelly Claussen led Colorado Christian (2-6, 0-1 RMAC) with 12 kills and, at .094, was the only Cougar to hit above .000. Kim McCalmont and Brooke Wittmayer each added five kills.

After running away with the first two sets, UCCS (6-3, 1-0) was unable to continue its dominance in the third set. Colorado Christian was able to overcome a 10-4 deficit and, after another UCCS run made it 23-16, the Cougars rallied again to close to 24-23. A Laura Brodie kill finally ended the comeback.

"I thought we started really strong," said Johnson. "Obviously, they came back even stronger; they had something to prove."

The Cougars did prove that they were resilient. They also proved that once the tantalizingly talented yet maddingly youthful Mountain Lions learn a killer instinct, they will be a very difficult team to deal with.

"That's just part of what you have to learn as a young team," said Barnett. "It's not something you can teach; it's something you have to experience.

"We're lucky to have good leadership and hopefully we can instill some of that belief in hem that they can put teams away."

In the end, UCCS did that Tuesday to continue its recent dominance in the series between the teams. The Mountain Lions have now won the past nine meetings between the teams dating back to 2004 and has taken 27 of the 29 sets played.

Laura Brodie had one solo and six assisted blocks to go along with her four kills for UCCS. Nicole Pederson added five kills and assisted on three blocks. Setter Cindy Bathelt had 19 assists, five assisted blocks, five digs and three kills.

Having beaten Colorado Christian, Barnett and the Mountain Lions will now face the other extreme in RMAC competition. On Saturday, they hit the road to face Nebraska-Kearney, which is ranked No. 9 nationally.

But that's on Saturday. On Tuesday, Barnett allowed himself to enjoy his first RMAC win, however briefly.

"It feels pretty good," he said, and then broke into the grin he had been trying so hard to contain, "it feels really good."



UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Kendall UtzKendall Utz8L
Kendall UtzKendall Utz8L
Laura BrodieLaura Brodie10MBFr.
Nicole PedersonNicole Pederson15MB
Nicole PedersonNicole Pederson15MB
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