Volleycats out to 1-2 start

Ignacio’s Avionne Gomez (10) comes up with a ball in the back row during the Volleycats’ four-game win at Dove Creek on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Focusing on her set and not Dove Creek’s Kiera Baughman (8), Ignacio’s Shoshone Thompson (14) executes cleanly during the Volleycats’ four-game road win on Sept. 8.
Ignacio’s Kelly Campbell (13) and Morgan Herrera (15) celebrate during the Volleycats’ four-game win at Dove Creek on Thursday, Sept. 8.
Ignacio’s Jade Richards attempts to save a ball out of the net and salvage a play during JV action Thursday, Sept. 8, on the road at Dove Creek. It was the first match in 2016 for IHS’ junior varsity, as well as a close one, but the ’Cats fell 21-25, 24-26 to the Lady Bulldogs.
Ignacio’s Isabella Pena (19) somehow slices this attack back towards the antenna and eventually into open space Thursday, Sept. 8, at Dove Creek for her first high-school kill. It was the first match in 2016 for IHS’ junior varsity, as well as a close one, but the ’Cats fell 21-25, 24-26 to the Lady Bulldogs.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Digging into a bag of tricks he was ready to carry out of DCHS Gymnasium, Thad Cano produced what he knew would confirm for his own team what volleyball fans already know:

Speed thrills.

And having proudly seen junior Shoshone Thompson fire three consecutive bullets from the service line late in Game 4, firmly grabbing momentum for Ignacio while devastating Dove Creek junior libero Marissa Hatfield in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League match Thursday, Sept. 8, Cano could see ‘putting the gun’ on his team during practice had been an effective motivator.

“That actually worked,” grinned the Volleycats’ head coach, revealing his use of a cell phone-sized radar to clock serves landing in play. But only those in play; errant attempts, even if smacked harder and faster, were for practical purposes of no value and dismissed.

“Besides ball control we did have 15-minute sessions of serving,” he continued. “And in practice Shoshone served 36 miles an hour! And those last serves, she was putting the heat on – those were definitely right around 36 miles an hour!”

And they all but had to be; the Lady Bulldogs had led by as much as eight, 14-6, in Game 4 after controlling Game 3 to not only prevent IHS from sweeping, but threaten to push the match to a tiebreaking fifth game – as Montezuma-Cortez had successfully done, visiting IHS Gymnasium on August 30 to begin the 2016 season with a victory.

“Well I was really nervous, because my coach … he gives us zones to serve at, and he kept telling me to serve to the ‘five,’” Thompson explained. “And I kept going to ‘six,’ kept serving to the libero – which is frustrating because the libero’s the best passer! But she kept messing up, so I guess it was okay.”

Thompson’s first two un-returnables went for aces and put Ignacio up 24-23 with a 2-games-to-1 advantage already in their favor. But Hatfield managed to receive the third, allowing DCHS to play the ball back over and pull even when senior Alex Forsythe netted what could have been the winner.

Freshman Makayla Howell, however, stuffed down a DC overpass, putting Forsythe – who’d been setter Thompson’s consistent go-to option offensively – on serve. Dropping in a wobbler, which the Lady Bulldogs somehow received and returned, Forsythe was able to watch as Thompson set junior Avionne Gomez for the decisive spike off Hatfield’s spectacular diving bid for a dig.

“We’ve actually done zero skill training on hitting; everything’s been focused on ball control, and the girls really worked through that,” Cano said. “We’ve done a lot of ‘mental’ control and today it really showed when things got tough so I’m really happy with what they brought from practice to game.”

“At the end of Game Three we were like, ‘Were we focused?’ So we were again, really, working on that mental focus to have great ball control.”

“Cortez … that was rough,” said Forsythe. “You know, first games are always hard and I think we weren’t really playing together as a team. And through practice we’ve been really working on our defense and serve-receive, and I think that really showed tonight. We really played as a team.”

Bouncing back from a 25-17, 19-25, 28-26, 17-25, 8-15 loss to the 3A Lady Panthers, 2A Ignacio briefly improved to .500 overall with a 25-17, 25-21, 16-25, 26-24 win at 1A Dove Creek.

“They came out ready to play, definitely,” new M-CHS head coach Dave Robinson had said. “Ignacio’s well-coached and obviously they’ve got some great girls working hard for each other.”

On the road, that showed immediately; the Cats never trailed in Game 1, though the Lady Bulldogs came as close as 15-12 before a Forsythe ace and Thompson kill got things rolling again, leading to senior Kelly Campbell crushing two kills to earn IHS a 1-0 match lead.

Awakened by the guests, DC recovered to go up 6-2 early in Game 2, before Ignacio got kills from Gomez and Campbell, and two aces by freshman Morgan Herrera to briefly move ahead at 9-8. Soon after, Dove Creek junior middle Faith Johnson served long, the first point of a crippling 8-0 run for the Cats – who, now leading 20-12, were able to virtually coast to Gomez’s game-claiming kill.

“We wanted to come out strong,” said Thompson. “And, like, have positive thoughts and not come out thinking we’re better than anyone – trying to ‘overpower’ the team, I guess.”

Having been humbled enough inside their own house, the Lady Bulldogs trailed only once – by a 6-5 count – in Game 3. And after a Johnson kill and four-point Johnson stay on serve, putting DC up 10-6, Ignacio managed only to tie the score at 13 before sophomore middle Breea Meyer downed a vital spike.

“I didn’t know that Dove Creek had, like, big middles,” Thompson admitted. “They did good.”

“I think we made a lot of mistakes on our own. We weren’t really coming together as a team, and I think that’s what kind of got us,” said Forsythe. “Then in the fourth we really…slowed everything down, brought back our composure and…won!”

Unfortunately Ignacio couldn’t maintain the energy two days later back at home, lost 16-25, 22-25, 18-25 to Telluride, and went into their next outing – Sept. 15 versus Dolores – standing 1-2 overall and 1-1 in the SJBL. Results were unavailable by press time.

Ahead on the schedule is a September 17 league triangular in Ridgway against RHS and Ouray, with a long trip to Nucla following on the 20th and a visit from Mancos on the 22nd preceding the Volleycats’ slated participation in the September 24 Simla Invitational.

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