Mountain Lions Win in Five Sets, Head to RMAC Playoffs on Positive Note
COLORADO SPRINGS - It was a bad night for monkeys at the Lions' Den on Saturday.
The University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Mountain Lions got their personal monkey off their backs, taking a five-set 3-2 (25-23, 15-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-12) victory over the Regis Rangers.
It was the first time in seven tries that the Mountain Lions had won a five-set match, including a heartbreaking loss to Metro State on Friday.
After the teams split the first four sets, the fifth set was tied at five when two Kim Pollard/Sonja Johnson blocks and kills by Lauren Orth, Pollard and Alex Nuttall set the Mountain Lions on a 6-1 run. Trailing 13-7, Regis scored four straight kills, two by Jessica Howe and one each by Lyz Kahn and Devin Eckhardt, to cut the lead to two.
"It got a little worrisome at 13-11," said UCCS coach Keith Barnett. "But we got one good side out and one good point."
That side out and point meant that UCCS will now head to Kearney, Neb., for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs as the No. 4 seed. The Mountain Lions will face Colorado School of Mines in a first-round match on Thursday.
All three seniors, Pollard, Orth and Cassey Santucci, saw extended playing time on Senior Night - their final home match. In fact, with potential freshman of the year Laura Brodie out with an ankle injury, Barnett used all 12 of his active players and mixed and matched personnel groupings.
" Fresh legs, fresh attitudes and for everyone to understand that no one's sacred," said Barnett, who even replaced star setter Cindy Bathelt for a period during the third and fourth sets. "If you're not doing your job - and we weren't - we've got people sitting behind you and they can do the job."
Andrea Brodie led UCCS (18-9, 13-6 RMAC) with 14 kills, while Johnson added 13 and Nicole Pederson had 10. Kim Pollard, playing in place of injured Laura Brodie, matched Pederson's four blocks. Kendall Utz paced the defense with 25 digs, followed by Johnson's 14 and Kelsey Pobar's 11. Bathelt and Lindsey Stich shared setter duties, with Bathelt getting 32 assists and Stich 17.
Howe led Regis (14-13, 12-7 RMAC) with 18 kills and Kahn added 15. Libero Cassidee Young had 15 digs while Eckhardt, the setter, had 52 assists, 14 digs and five kills.
The first set featured as much parity as was expected from teams so evenly matched. Regis held a meager .119 to .111 hitting edge, while UCCS held a slim advantage in digs (20-19). Ultimately, the Mountain Lions 3-2 edges in both service aces and blocks would prove to be the statistical difference.
The second set had no such egalitarian feel. The Rangers kept the Mountain Lions on their heels with a strong service game, limiting UCCS to just .067 hitting. That same service game benefitted Regis offensively. With UCCS forced to play the ball out of system, the Rangers were afforded the opportunity to set up precise attacks. It paid off as the Rangers hit .533 with their only hitting error coming by way of a UCCS block.
" It was a little bit rough in the beginning but, as a team, we were able to pull it out," said Andrea Brodie. "Everyone really contributed tonight."
The Mountain Lions controlled the service game in the third set, though, forcing Regis to go deeper. The tactic worked, resulting in five service errors and a side-out mark of 71 percent.
With each team having controlled a set, the teams went back to even in the fourth. Johnson had six kills, but Jordan Hughes put down two of her three kills of the match over the final four points as the Rangers narrowly forced a fifth set.
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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