Volleyball is a team sport where everyone one on the court needs to be clicking to achieve the desired outcome. There are many pivotal positions in a game of volleyball, but it’s safe to say that the setter position is one of the most important in the game. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that Samantha Ritter, the setter for the Colorado Mesa University volleyball team, is making her mark for the team in her sophomore season.

The team has played their way to a 12-6 record midway through the season. The Mavericks are receiving contributions from many players on the team. Ritter has made her presence felt. She has recorded 700 assists and is second on the team in digs, with 195. Her per set average sits at 10.66, good for fifth in the RMAC.

Ritter grew to learn that this team sport was her passion. After trying individual sports such as swimming, she knew volleyball would be that passion. Ritter’s mother was also a setter, coaching her while she was young and showing her daughter everything she knew about the game. That coaching has helped Ritter become successful at the collegiate level.

“I really love how volleyball is such a team sport,” Ritter said. “No matter if one player is down or the whole team is performing poorly, you all have to really come together to talk and communicate and someone has to take leadership. I really like being part of such a nice family.”

Ritter has been named RMAC’s Setter of the Week twice this season. As any player would feel, Ritter is grateful for the recognition and knows it acknowledges the team is playing well.

“It’s a really cool feeling, especially because there are other setters in the RMAC who are really talented,” Ritter said. “So, it’s a huge honor. It’s also really nice because the community is so supportive. I have people come up to me all the time saying, ‘Congrats Sam,’ and I’m like wow, thank you.”

With great coaching comes great play. Dave Fleming, head volleyball coach, is excited to see how great Ritter has become defensively, while assistant coach David Skaff knows Sam’s teammates enjoys her on-court presence.

“She’s a very good defensive setter. A lot of setters aren’t focused on defense at all. They want to release quickly. She’s very serious about defense and she wants to be a good defender, which is great,” Fleming said.

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“I think the team is enjoying having Sam and her speed. She’s a little more physical of a setter and the passers enjoy having someone taller that jumps higher where they can push some of those digs up there to run a faster tempo offense,” Skaff said.

Fleming also values how she carries herself on the court.

“She’s very even keel,” Fleming said. “When you look at her, you always see Sam. You don’t see excited Sam, you don’t see sad Sam, or disappointed Sam. You always just get that even keel. You want them to be consistent in the way they play, their body language and she does a nice job of that.”

The same can be said for Ritter when it comes to adversity. Adversity plays its part in all sports. Teams can feel unstoppable at times, especially when they win a championship. Other times they feel like all their hard work is crumbling down on them after losing four in a row. Ritter knows how important it is to stay on your feet and look forward to the next play.

“When I make an error or if something isn’t going my way, I really try to focus on the next point. As the setter, it’s really important to be calm and let everyone else know that you got it because they look up to you. I try to stay collected and focus on the next point,” Ritter said.

The volleyball team is looking as strong as ever this season. When a player like Ritter shows her passion for the game inside and out, and the team rallies behind it, the thought of championship aspirations are endless.  

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Josue Perez is a junior mass communication student. He is from Montrose, Colorado. He began writing on staff for The Criterion in the fall of 2017 and will be assistant sports editor in the spring. He has a passion for sports and wishes to pursue a career in sports journalism.

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