Loss to Metro State Puts Mountain Lions' Regional Aspirations in Jeopardy
COLORADO SPRINGS - With the sets even at one each and Mountain Lions leading by five in the third, everything changed in a moment for the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs volleyball team. Laura Brodie, who represents one-half of one of the most formidable pair of middle blockers in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, went high to hammer a set from Cindy Bathelt. A Metro State player had crossed far enough under the net that her foot was at Brodie's landing point, her out of the game with an ankle injury and, with just a couple of weeks remaining, likely out for the season.
In that instant, the Mountain Lions lost the RMAC's third most efficient offensive force (.375 hitting mark), their second-leading blocker and much of the momentum.
While the Mountain Lions held on to win that third set, the Metro State Roadrunners ended up on the winning end of a 3-2 (25-15, 23-25, 15-25, 25-16, 15-12) decision Friday evening at the Lions' Den.
"We had them until their player went out of control and came under (the net)," said UCCS coach Keith Barnett. "We absolutely had them.
"They were better tonight in game five but I don't think it goes to five if Laura doesn't get hurt."
That's not to disparage Kim Pollard, who came off the bench and did a solid job. The senior was a starter in 2008 and was fourth on the team in kills.
"We know that our team is well-rounded and it's not a big deal if we have to pull someone in off the bench," said Santucci.
"We know Kim is our next option and she can do the job," added Barnett.
But as good as Pollard is, there are few who can really replace Brodie. The odds-on favorite to win RMAC freshman of the year, she's an explosive player both offensively and at the net. Additionally, with the injury occurring mid-match, the Mountain Lions suffered from a lack of continuity.
And the consequences to UCCS could scarcely be higher.
For a regular-season, NCAA Division II volleyball match, the stakes simply don't get higher. Aside from the implications for the RMAC playoff seedings, which are considerable, the match held even bigger ramifications regionally. The Mountain Lions came into Friday's match ranked ninth in the Central Region rankings. Metro State was eighth. Only eight teams from each of the NCAA's eight regions advance to the NCAA Tournament.
Put simply, if the Mountain Lions had won Friday, they should have bumped Metro State out of the top eight and take the Roadrunners' place. With the loss, UCCS will likely take winning the RMAC Tournament - which will be difficult at best with Nebraska-Kearney in the field - to advance to the NCAAs.
Senior Cassey Santucci had a career-high 12 kills to lead UCCS (17-9, 12-6 RMAC)
"It was nice; it felt good getting toward the end of my last season," Santucci said of her career night.
Jenica Shippy's added 11 kills for UCCS, followed by Andrea Brodie's nine and Nicole Pederson's eight. Kendall Utz led the Mountain Lion defense with 22 digs, while Bathelt had 36 assists.
Emily Greenhalgh led Metro State (20-7, 13-5 RMAC) with 20 kills.
The Mountain Lions led 15-10 at the time of Laura Brodie's injury and, behind five kills by Santucci and a .324 hitting mark, went on to take the set 25-16.
Metro State came back to lead wire-to-wire in the fourth set, closing with a 10-3 run during which Greenhalgh got four of her seven kills for the set.
Kills by Greenhalgh and Bri Morley broke a 3-all tie in the deciding set. A point later, Morley added a kill to a UCCS attack error and the lead increased to 7-4. It got as large as five (11-6) after a solo block by Lisa Jones.
An assisted block by Pederson and Bathelt plus a kill by Shippy helped cut the deficit to 12-10, but a kill by Anna Mapes and an ace by Jones pushed the Roadrunners to match point. UCCS fought off elimination twice before another Mapes kills ended the match.
UCCS will host Regis on Saturday before heading to the RMAC playoff tournament in Kearney, Neb. on Friday.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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