Volleyball downs Highlands in four sets to clinch RMAC Tournament bid

Volleyball downs Highlands in four sets to clinch RMAC Tournament bid

PUEBLO, Colo. (Massari Arena) – For the first time since the 2011 season the Colorado State University-Pueblo volleyball team has clinched a spot in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament thanks to a 3-1 (17-25, 25-19, 25-22, 30-28) victory over the visiting New Mexico Highlands University Cowgirls, Friday.

With the win, the ThunderWolves improve to 16-11 overall and 10-7 in RMAC contests. The 16 wins are the most for the Pack since 2006, while the 10 league victories is the top mark since the 2011 campaign. CSU-Pueblo's RMAC record secures the No. 5 seed for next week's conference tournament. The ThunderWolves will travel to face Regis University, Tuesday. The official tournament bracket will be released later this weekend following the conclusion of the regular season.

With the loss, the Cowgirls fall to 11-17 on the season, including a 5-12 mark in RMAC tilts.

The final statistical line was very balanced with the Pack holding the advantage in hitting percentage, 176 to .167, kills, 58-57, and assists, 55-54, while Highlands topped CSU-Pueblo in digs, 93-85, and blocks, 8-7.

Both of the ThunderWolves' setters recorded double-doubles for the second consecutive match. Alex Sansavera (R-Jr., San Antonio, Texas) finished with a team-high 28 assists and 10 digs for her 11th double-double of the season, while Jordan Bruere (Jr., Rio Rancho, N.M.) posted 22 helpers and 10 digs for her 13th double-double of the year. Morgan Wilkening (Jr., Fleming, Colo.) notched a match-high 17 kills, while adding a team-best 22 digs, giving the junior her eighth double-double of the season. Megan Schultz (So., Colorado Springs, Colo.) provided a huge lift off of the bench for head coach Jen Gomez, registering 15 kills on a career-high .652 hitting percentage. At the net defensively, the RMAC's top blocker Oni Lattin (Jr., Houston, Texas) posted a match-high four blocks.

For the Cowgirls, Kristin Woody led a trio of players with double-digit kills with 15. Shayli Schulz paced both squads with 40 kills, while libero Jessica Piper finished with a contest-best 33 digs. Elizabeth Gomez tied Lattin for the match-high in blocks with four.

Highlands started the contest strong, winning the first set. The Cowgirls led for all but the first two points of the stanza en route to a convincing 25-17 victory.

The ThunderWolves answered with a dominating performance of their own in the second game, winning 25-19. CSU-Pueblo never trailed and led by as many as eight points, at 22-14, in the match-tying victory.

The critical third set was tightly contested. The Pack led throughout the majority of the contest, until the Cowgirls were able to even the score at 18. CSU-Pueblo responded with a mini 4-0 scoring burst to help propel itself to a 25-22 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.

The ThunderWolves closed the night with a victory in the fourth set, but it didn't come without plenty of drama. The game featured 17 ties and 18 lead changes. Trailing 24-23, Highlands fended off a pair of match points, before setting up set point of their own at 26-25. CSU-Pueblo scored the next two points to once again hold match point at 27-26. The Cowgirls denied the Pack on two more attempts to close the game, but the home team kept attacking and was able to pull out the 30-28 win to clinch the match and the playoff berth. It was the sixth victory for the Pack after dropping the first game in a match.

CSU-Pueblo will close out its regular season Saturday with a Senior-Night contest against Western New Mexico University at 7 p.m. Prior to the match, the Pack's lone senior Taylor Fox (Sr., Santa Cruz, Calif.) will be honored as part of senior day activities.

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As a member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Colorado State University – Pueblo competes in 22 varsity sports in NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletics.