GOLDEN — Whether it was Parents Night on Friday evening or Senior Night on Saturday, this past weekend allowed the 16th-ranked Colorado School of …
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GOLDEN — Whether it was Parents Night on Friday evening or Senior Night on Saturday, this past weekend allowed the 16th-ranked Colorado School of Mines volleyball team an opportunity to have a little bit of fun.
The Orediggers took full advantage and are now bracing for their toughest stretch of 2012.
Three-set sweeps of Chadron State and Black Hills State kept the Orediggers tied with Regis atop the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings going into the final four games of the regular season. Mines (19-5, 13-2 in the RMAC) visits Regis and Metro State next weekend before closing out the season with Colorado Christian and UC-Colorado Springs.
Each of those four teams is in position to take the East Division crown and possibly the conference title heading into the RMAC Tournament Nov. 13-17.
“We have to make sure we keep getting better because those teams are all very good. Every team is going to come at us, trying to take the conference from us,” Orediggers freshman Danielle Johnson-Hazlewood said. “We always have to be improving and on our game so that we can work for our goals.”
Coming off a five-set loss at Western New Mexico on Oct. 19 that snapped a 10-match winning streak, Mines has won three in a row without giving up a set. On Friday the Orediggers rolled past Chadron State 25-14, 25-18, 25-16 behind 14 kills from Melanie Wannamaker and 10 kills from Jackie Stabell.
The next night saw a 25-14, 25-16, 25-18 sweep of the Yellow Jackets. Holly Hutchison had 11 kills and Stabell and Wannamaker added 10 each. Hannah Margheim, Alese Madenwald and Corrine Din combined for 33 digs.
“We definitely never take anyone for granted in this conference because we’ve made some mistakes in the past and taken some things for granted, and they came back to get us,” Stabell said. “But we’re definitely looking down the road and using these matches to get prepared, work out the kinks, and just get better every game.”
Mines has one more home game left this season against CCU and is hoping to host the conference tournament by winning the regular-season crown. This past weekend was a chance to honor the team’s seniors who have made three consecutive trips to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
“It is really weird. I know all six of us seniors talked about how quickly this happened,” Stabell said. “We’ve had a blast together and had a great four years. Our senior class is really close and it’s amazing to me that we’re this far along in my last year. It’s a shocker.”
That’s not to say the underclassmen haven’t played a big role this season, including a pair of true freshmen in Johnson-Hazlewood and Din. Johnson Hazlewood has stepped into the starting role at setter this fall after the graduation of Amanda Massey, the program’s all-time leader with 3,122 assists.
Johnson-Hazlewood is averaging 11.69 assists per set this fall.
“At first coming in it was a bit overwhelming, being a freshman and learning the new offense,” Johnson-Hazlewood said. “But the team was very welcoming and they help out a lot and they’re always there for you.
“We’re just all trying really hard to push for this RMAC Championship. We all want it so that’s what’s driving us.”
Her performance isn’t limited to just setting up her teammates. The freshman from Cypress, Texas is third on the team in digs and even had a pair of blocks Friday against the Eagles.
“As a setter, you have to know how to play all areas of the game,” Johnson-Hazlewood said. “I think the team as a whole, we all just work together.
“I don’t really think I’m proving myself; I just kind of go out there and play my hardest.”
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