Ignacio’s Avionne Gomez (10) spikes a ball off the block of Ridgway’s Samantha Medina (7) during SJBL road action, Oct. 21 at RHS.
Ignacio senior Shoshone Thompson (center) checks with classmate Avionne Gomez (left) the origin and direction of any Senior Night tears, as fellow senior Caitlyn Mulcahy (right) enjoys a laugh prior to the players’ recognitions, Oct. 19 inside HIS Gymnasium.
Ignacio senior Leela Rosa (left) offers her Senior Night bounty to parents Bobbie and Daniel during player recognitions Oct. 19 inside IHS Gymnasium.
Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez (6) sends a shot over Ridgway’s Hadassah Gates and Hunter Gentry (5) during SJBL road action, Oct. 21 at RHS.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
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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Volleycats end regular season one up, one down

Beginning Game 2 with an overpass-kill, getting Ridgway’s Samantha Medina off one service line while putting herself behind the other, Shoshone Thompson – whether she knew it or not – was about to stun a crowd already tuckered out from a tense five-gamer the previous night.

What the Lady Demons’ fans may not have known Saturday, Oct. 21, was that Ignacio had survived a full pull of their own the night before RHS outlasted Telluride, and that neither the Volleycats nor their own team really wanted to get caught up in another 2A/1A San Juan Basin League endurance test    no matter how thrilling.

Having seen Ridgway’s Jessi Miller, one of four seniors playing their last home match, serve the home side out to a 7-1 lead in Game 1, Thompson dissected the Lady Demons with five service aces – including two sent senior Hadassah Gates’ way and one targeting sophomore Michaela Messer, Gates’ replacement – in almost singlehandedly staking the visitors to a vicious 10-0 start.

“It was crazy! Coach Cano was telling me where to serve – I just went where he told me to go – and everywhere … it was an ace, a shank, or whatever!” said Thompson. “I don’t know how … but it was really exciting.”

The only problem was it didn’t last.

In much the same manner as IHS managed to claw back into Game 1 – tying the score at 15 after Thompson aced junior Hannah Waggoner twice and then sophomore Adli Gates (replacing Waggoner) – RHS rallied to tie Game 2 at 18-18 and use the comeback to prevail 25-23 with sophomore Emersyn Gentry acing senior Avionne Gomez.

“It’s not a fun place to be in,” Ridgway senior Hunter Gentry said, of her team falling prey to Thompson’s precision. “But we fought back really hard and did end up winning – pretty close, but that just shows that our team’s willing to fight for it. So it was a good game for us.”

And a match-changing game as the contest played out.

For even though Ignacio again started fast, taking leads of 5-1 with Gomez acing the younger Gates, and 10-5 with freshman Charlize Valdez smacking an untouchable ace through the net, the Lady Demons countered with a crucial 10-0 run capped by an Emersyn Gentry ace akin to Valdez’s.

“I think that was probably hard; I know that it’s happened to us, for sure,” said Miller, assessing the impact of both RHS comebacks from the other team’s perspective. “So I think we really showed that we can come together and work: Put the ball down, get the pass. Even though we might be in our heads a little bit, our team comes together as a dynamic and … pushes one [point] at a time until we get it.”

“We … tried to fight,” Volleycat senior Caitlyn Mulcahy said. “A lot of times we kind of just ended up, like, giving up or not focusing or not playing as a team. So that was our fault. But we played really hard and so did Ridgway, which is a lot of fun to play.”

A Mulcahy back-row kill brought the ’Cats back to 16-15, and after another Emersyn Gentry kill rebuilt the Lady Demons’ advantage to 19-16, IHS fought back to 20-19 via an ace by sophomore reserve Bella Pena. Ridgway again answered and recreated a three-point pad, but the guests crashed it back down to just one, 22-21, after Valdez scored with a tip and then another unplayable serve.

“We get those lags and it’s hard to come back, but we’re doing a lot better,” said Hunter Gentry. “And just learning how to keep pushing, keep fighting and wanting to win is where we need to be at right now.”

Having taken Game 1, 25-20, and then the wild Game 2, RHS closed out a difficult sweep with a 25-21 Game 3 win, the final point coming when Gomez sent a cross-court spike just wide.

It was almost the same play as what successfully ended IHS’ Senior Night (10/19) grinder versus Mancos, when Gomez – whose back-to-back-to-back aces ending Game 1 had the Lady Jays reeling – smacked a Thompson set to finish off a 25-15, 24-26, 18-25, 25-20, 15-9 victory.

“We’re still figuring out how to, like, connect with each other,” Thompson said, “but Avi and I connect really good, you know. She has really good hits … off of any set, actually.”

Gomez and junior Misty Egger-Morris each totaled four kills against MHS (5-13, 3-11 SJBL), while sophomore Makayla Howell decked five as Thompson distributed 15 assists. Opposite number Emmalee Asnicar, however, logged 32 as junior Morgan Rose downed ten kills and sophomore Magdalena Halls nine.

Rose also came up with 14 digs for a double-double, while Halls (11 digs) came close. Sophomore Isis Jaime (7 kills) led all players with 21 ups – more than doubling Howell’s IHS-best ten. In addition to totaling six aces in just 15 serves, Gomez came up with eight digs and Egger-Morris five, while Howell (5 aces) registered four solo blocks. Pena came off the bench to place three aces.

“It was so emotional for all of us since it’s our last home game,” said Mulcahy, recognized alongside Thompson, Gomez and Leela Rosa from the varsity (Allisianna Marquez-Baker was saluted in absentia), as well as JV members Gabrianna Creason, Karely Mendoza and Chamisa Edd.

“It was a lot of fun, and way cool to also win that … and really be a team. It was a special moment.”

“That game was really good; we worked together as a team, finally knew how to mesh,” Thompson said. “And I think overall we did a good job against Ridgway; it was three close games, and we’re still learning.”

Against RHS (13-5, 10-3 SJBL), Mulcahy landed six kills while Valdez registered five. Gomez and Egger-Morris were each held to three, while Howell was held to just one. Thompson finished with nine aces in her 22 total serves, while Valdez and Pena each totaled three.

In vying for a triple-double, Thompson also had nine assists and 12 digs. Valdez came up with 13, Howell 12, and Gomez eight – indicating none of the Lady Demons’ kills, or even points in general, came easily.

“It was hard,” said Miller, also discussing Ridgway’s 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 23-25, 15-11 home win over THS the previous night. “Our passing, we’ve found, is one of our biggest struggles as a team, so we really … had to get our heads together; little mistakes happen, but let’s overcome that and put it down!’”

“We definitely need to fix, like, getting the free balls to the setter, letting the setter set us, and then putting the ball down right away,” Mulcahy said, noting a similar point of concern. “And just kind of focusing as a team.”

“If we have a free ball, we need to put the ball down,” concurred Thompson. “And our serve-receive, we need to work on a little bit. But other than that … our serves are great, our hits are good.”

Which certainly bodes well for Ignacio (8-11, 7-6), minus sophomore Morgan Herrera in both matches, in the Dolores-hosted 2A-District 3 Tournament on Saturday, Oct. 28.

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