Mountain Lions Overcome 0-2 Deficit, Block their Way to Win Over Fort Lewis
COLORADO SPRINGS - The Mountain Lions fought off five match points in Thursday's third set, and then they rolled all the way back to win their Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference opener.
Rallying all the way back from an 0-2 hole, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs set new blocking records to hand the Fort Lewis Skyhawks an emotional 3-2 (18-25, 28-30, 28-26, 25-15, 15-6) defeat at the Gallogly Events Center.
The Mountain Lions (7-3) had 19 total blocks with Nikki Kinzer participating in 12 (four solo and eight assisted), both the highest marks by a UCCS team since at least 2000. The previous team best was 15 against Western State on Nov. 8, 2002 and the previous individual best was 10 by Kelley Angel on Sept. 25, 2004. Incomplete game-by-game records and differences in statistical standards make comparisons prior to 2000 deceptive.
It looked like it was going to be a short night after the first two sets as Fort Lewis took 25-18 and 30-28 decisions. UCCS led by as many as four in the first set and six in the second before fading.
"It just seemed like we would make mistakes at key moments like long rallies," said Sonja Johnson, who led the Mountain Lions with 15 kills. "(Fort Lewis) would win those and then get the momentum back. It was a lack of execution at key moments - we couldn't put them away."
The Mountain Lions trailed 24-21 and stood a single point away from a 3-0 sweep. Back-to-back kills by Kinzer cut the gap to one before a Skyhawk hitting error evened it at 24. Fort Lewis regained the lead at 25-24 but a service error tied it again. Fort Lewis blocked a Sonja Johnson attack to go up for the final time at 26-25, but setter Lindsey Stich went to Johnson again and the junior slammed it down for a 26-all tie.
A tough serve by Kinzer forced the Skyhawks into a poor offensive position, which led to a hitting error that put the Mountain Lions up 27-26. UCCS coach Keith Barnett subbed in 6-foot-2 redshirt freshman Darby Jones, leaving his team with a huge front line but no true setter. The gambit worked as Jones combined with Nicole Pederson to block a Taylor Hillberry attack and end the set.
"That was gutsy," said Johnson about the comeback. "When you get several points in a row, it's easier to take harder swings and it's easier to better the ball each time. We know that when we finish (a set) that way we know we have the momentum so we should be able to start off better."
The comeback not only energized the Mountain Lions, it also deflated Fort Lewis. UCCS put up six of its 19 blocks in the fourth set and Kinzer had four kills in a 25-15 UCCS win. The Mountain Lions put up four more blocks in the deciding set to lead UCCS to a dominant 15-6 set and match win.
Johnson also had a team-best 14 digs to go with her kill total. Kinzer added 14 kills, Jenica Shippy 11 and Alex Nuttall nine. Kendall Utz had 13 digs and Kinzer 12, while Stich had 30 assists. Cindy Bathelt, who had been sidelined since the season opener with an ankle injury, played extensively in back-row rotations in the final three sets and had 17 assists.
Chelsea Flaming led Fort Lewis (6-3, 0-1 RMAC) with 18 kills. Jenna Kinzer, Nikki's little sister, had a match-high 30 digs and Adriana Saiz had 50 assists.
The comeback win gave the Mountain Lions two valuable pieces of information; that they have to ability to come from behind and that it's much better to not need to do so.
"We know that we can come back...but we also have to know that we won't always be able to do that," said Johnson. "We have to start better...we cant go down 0-2."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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