By Rob White
The NCAA Division II No. 1-ranked Metropolitan State University of Denver volleyball team was on the brink of history Friday. And Alexis Benda wasn’t going to miss it, injury or not.
“The day after (her season-ending knee injury) happened, she said, ‘I’m serving on Senior Night,’” Roadrunners coach Jenny Glenn said. “She was super-determined. For all she’s done for the program, that’s the least we could have done for her.”
As so it was that MSU Denver, in pursuit of its second perfect 18-0 record in conference play in six seasons, started the Senior Night game with Benda serving one last time.
She put the ball in play, and even with Benda unable to defend, the Roadrunners got the first point. Benda subbed out, with teammate Caiden Rexius waiting for her at the substitution line with Benda’s crutches.
It was a fitting, triumphant night for Benda and the other Roadrunners seniors who have overcome so many challenges during their time at MSU Denver, including injuries and Covid disruption. The Roadrunners went on to complete their perfect run in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, beating the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs 3-0 and turning their sights to postseason play.
“Every Senior Day has emotion attached to it, but with everything that has happened in the last couple of years, the commitment of these ‘Covid’ seniors to come back – that’s how much they love the program and how much they love the sport,” Glenn said. “The amount of time and effort they’ve put in during a time where it hasn’t been easy, it speaks volumes about who they are, their character and commitment.”
MSU Denver completed the regular season with a 24-2 overall record and, for the first time in school history, a No. 1 national ranking in D-II. The Roadrunners delivered the program’s first outright regular-season RMAC championship since 2016 and fifth in program history.
The conference tournament is up next. MSU Denver will face No. 8 seed New Mexico Highlands University on Tuesday at the Auraria PE/Event Center at 7 p.m.
"We prepare for every match just like any other match and take each match one by one," defensive specialist Caiden Rexius said. "We're not looking ahead, which has been our theme."
The NCAA Tournament begins Dec. 2.
The Roadrunners have won 22 straight matches this season and have won a school-record 19 straight at home, dating to the start of the spring season.
Success is nothing new for the MSU Denver volleyball program, one of just four Division II schools to reach all 20 NCAA Tournaments since 2000. Only four current D-II schools have made more postseason appearances than MSU Denver’s 27.
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