Mountain Lions Clinch Playoff Berth with Win over Chadron State
COLORADO SPRINGS - Behind 16 kills and a .682 hitting mark by Nikki Kinzer, the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs clinched a berth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference postseason tournament by dispatching the Chadron State Eagles 3-0 (25-10, 25-12, 25-13) Friday evening at the Gallogly Events Center.
A goal that took over two months to set up was clinched in just 1 hour, 3 minutes, easily the shortest match of the season. The Mountain Lions improved to 10-7 in RMAC play and 16-11 overall.
Alex Nuttall added 10 kills for UCCS Friday, which hit a season-best .411. The previous best was .322 against Valdosta State on Sept. 3. Nicole Pederson had eight kills and a .636 hitting mark. Lindsey Stich orchestrated the attack with 40 assists.
It proved to be a big night for the Mountain Lions middle hitters as Kinzer, Pederson and Darby Jones combined for 26 of the team's 48 kills and hit a combined .686.
"This week in practice, we worked a lot on getting our passes where they need to be so we can run the middles," said Kinzer. "Kendall (Utz), Skylar (Lewandowski) and all of our passers tonight did a really good job of making sure the ball was right there in the middle and Stich was spot-on with her sets."
Defensively, Kendall Utz and Sonja Johnson each had 13 digs, while Kinzer had a solo block and two assisted blocks.
The Mountain Lions avoided the slow start that had dogged them throughout the season. They opened the first set with an 11-1 run and maintained a double-digit lead from 12-2 on. Kinzer had seven kills on only nine attempts in the set and UCCS had just one unforced hitting error.
That efficiency was taken up a notch in the second set as the Mountain Lions hit a remarkable .464. Pederson had five kills in as many attempts and Nuttall had three kills in four attempts. Kinzer added five more kills.
UCCS was at its sloppiest and, ironically, also its most dominant in the third set. The Mountain Lions committed their only three service errors of the match in the final set and also had five of their six unforced hitting errors. Conversely, they had 21 kills against just four for the Eagles.
"I thought it we were real sharp and ready to go," said UCCS coach Keith Barnett. "The girls played really well; they were intense from the beginning."
Barnett is pleased with how his team has played over the past couple of weeks, notching key wins against Regis, Colorado Mines and Colorado Christian without which Friday's win wouldn't have been as relevant. He stopped short of saying his team is peaking, though.
"If you asked us three weeks ago if we're going to there, you're not real sure," he said. "They've turned it on, they've playing really well and they've beat some quality teams.
"We're winning at the right time and that's what matters. We'll find out if we're peaking."
UCCS Players/Staff Featured
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