Ignacio's Ellie Seibel (12), with libero Chrystianne Valdez (2) observing, calmly controls a Ridgway serve during Oct. 10 action inside IHS Gymnasium.
Ignacio libero Chrystianne Valdez (2) leaps and lets fly a jump-serve during Oct. 10 action inside IHS Gymnasium against Ridgway.
Ignacio's Kelly Campbell (13) sends a free ball back over the net during Oct. 8 action inside IHS Gymnasium versus 3A La Jara Centauri. Campbell's outstanding blocking continued two days later with 10 (4 solo, 6 assisted) rejections against Ridgway.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
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Spikers merge onto rough road

When high-profile Hunter Gentry became a friendly-fire casualty – popped in the back of her melon by teammate Emma Copp’s service bullet – the opposing Ignacio Volleycats certainly could have hoped her loss would affect Ridgway the same as their own recent subtraction.

“We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, she just got hit in the head!’” IHS senior Chrystianne Valdez said. “We’ve concussed our own team before, so we know how that is! Yeah, that’s happened … a couple of times in the past.”

“We made sure to stay calm,” RHS’ Ara Norwood said. “That was our key – not let our energy go down.”

And unfortunately for Ignacio the Lady Demons didn’t. Able to effectively reinforce their weakened front, complementing unsilenced guns Kaitlyn Rutherford and Saren Robinson, the enemy exited the conflict avengers of an earlier defeat which in turn upped the stakes of the Oct. 10 engagement inside IHS Gymnasium.

“We knew we had to just go with it,” Robinson said, of Gentry’s precautionary removal late in Game 2 of Ridgway’s 25-21, 28-26, 25-16 sweep. “We got another girl out on the court – Sammie (Medina) – and we knew she could handle it. She came through for us and helped us out a lot.”

“And we just played a lot better amongst everything. Last game we did have our difficulties,” she continued, recalling the Volleycats’ five-game win up in Ouray County, “but this game we definitely battled against them and came out on top.”

“They definitely came in focused, just like we did. You know, this was a big game for both of us … to determine the league champions, and it did today,” said Valdez (23 digs), aware that the Lady Demons had taken a 5-3 lead in games won during the 2A-level teams’ head-to-head split of their season series.

Ready to recover from a draining five-game (25-27, 25-20, 20-25, 25-22, 10-15) loss not even 48 hours earlier to visiting 3A La Jara Centauri, Ignacio were the unquestioned aggressors early on in Game 1 with RHS, sprinting out to a 6-1 lead behind the serving of junior Alex Forsythe – again filling concussion victim Shoshone Thompson’s setter role – and the hitting of seniors Miel Diaz (5 kills, 12 digs) and Ellie Seibel (4k, 5d).

Not until Rutherford, slow out of the gate, fired consecutive aces to tie at 7-7 did Ridgway show they were at last ready to rumble with the Red & White, and the Lady Demons – after five more scoreboard ties – took the lead for good at 18-17 and bedded the issue with a Robinson ace.

Game 2 was the one IHS (9-4, 6-1 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) would have wanted back when all was said and done; after building up a solid 12-5 pad again behind Forsythe’s initial serving and late kills by junior Sheigh Pollock and sophomore Avionne Gomez, the Cats incredibly suffered quite the collapse.

A Norwood ace pulled the Lady Demons back to as close as 19-18 before Ignacio re-separated and went up 23-20 on Copp’s unplanned KO of Gentry, who was denied later re-entry as a precaution. Still, RHS (12-1, 10-1) kept working and at last drew level at 23 on a Brynne Skalla spike off Kelly Campbell.

Rutherford (17k on .393 hitting, 12d) then landed a tip, but after hitting errors by Skalla and Robinson (8k at .400, 11d) gave IHS a chance at game point, ahead 26-25. But the visitors again tied and then took the game when Gomez hit wide and Skalla (5k at .375) sent over an unclaimed serve for the essential 2-games-to-0 advantage.

Which Ignacio had overcome before against Ridgway – a climb they took steps towards repeating, but an achievement in which the Lady Demons had no intentions of again participating. A Seibel cross-court kill knotted the score for the last time at 13-13, and after RHS skipper Amy Rutherford took a timeout the guests didn’t waver.

“Once we … found our rhythm again,” Robinson said. “We knew we had to fight hard for what we wanted, and that’s exactly what we did. We … decided to have fun, rather than really just worry about it.”

A Pollock block got the Cats as close as 18-15, but kills by Kaitlyn Rutherford and Skalla began what became a clinching 6-0 burst. Copp had the misfortune of giving IHS one last hope with a faulty serve on match point, but Skalla dashed that with a spike resulting in a disputed lift call against Forsythe (8 assists, 4 digs).

“We had some adversity – had a setter down – and played well with what we had! Alex … played so great today … adapted to her spot really well,” Valdez stated. “And by that third set we played a lot better. It’s a matter of … figuring each other out and we haven’t had a lot of time to do that because that concussion was so quick.”

“We’re going to be more connected now. I think now everyone’s going to be really humble, definitely,” Seibel said after Ignacio totaled only 15 kills at a disappointing -.036 clip. “And not take the team for granted.”

“We’re going up – nowhere but up from here!”

Bumped out of the CHSAANow.com 2A rankings’ top ten – RHS moved in at No. 8 – the Volleycats head to Telluride Oct. 17, then host Dolores on the 22nd, Norwood on the 24th and 3A Pagosa Springs for the regular-season finale on the 27th. Results of visits from Dove Creek (10/13) and Mancos (10/15) were unavailable at press time.


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