Volleycats struggle in two SJBL tests

Ignacio’s Reyna Cruz (19) times a block perfectly against Mancos’ Isis Jaime (6) during SJBL action inside IHS Gymnasium on Thursday, Sept. 6.
Ignacio’s Kiana Valdez (2) gets down for a dig during SJBL road action at Ouray on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Ignacio’s Makayla Howell (7) twists and tries dinking a shot away from Ouray’s Kaydee Alvarez (15) during SJBL road action on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Joel Priest | Special to the Drum

Historically speaking, Ouray would have been a leading candidate for opponents to experiment against when it came to tinkering with a lineup or modifying their respective volleyball strategies.

The Lady Trojans unexpectedly flipped that script Saturday morning, Sept. 8, and Ignacio—with skipper Thad Cano electing to move some pieces around in anticipation of challenging proven-tough competition—was left on the wrong end of a 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 loss in 2A/1A San Juan Basin League road action.

Not even 48 hours prior, Mancos—another circuit program learning from its own ups and downs in recent years—had entered IHS Gymnasium and exited as 25-15, 25-16, 25-22 winners, meaning the subsequent setback inside the House of Troy dropped the Volleycats to 2-3 overall, 1-2 SJBL.

“A lot of the teams in our league are playing ‘upper’ teams,” Cano said, asked about the league opponents’ apparent early-season rise [IHS had needed five games to stop Ridgway back on Aug. 30].  “We’ll be facing Kit Carson in Simla in a few weeks, so…I’m going to change the lineup and we’ll see how it goes.”

“Everything will come into play,” he added in a reassuring tone.

Having led the Lady Jays just once—at 7-6 in Game three—at home, Ignacio fared somewhat better away despite trailing first-year head coach Alex Durham’s squad by as much as 17-10 late in each game.  Victory in Game one nearly came to be, but after two aces by junior Makayla Howell tied the score at 23-23, senior Reyna Cruz sent a spike out of play and OHS then took the game via a rotation infraction against the ’Cats.

Three Ouray miscues allowed IHS to go up 5-4 early in Game two, but the home team regained the lead for good at 7-6, and a five-point burst shortly after put the Lady Trojans (1-3, 1-1) up 15-9 before OHS found clinching momentum at senior Izabella Howe’s expense.

After Howe netted a serve, putting Ouray up 20-11, Lady Trojan junior Kaydee Alvarez smashed a kill through IHS’ middle.  Howe then committed a passing error, and OHS senior Alannah Wister followed by acing Howe for a 23-11 advantage before Howe managed to score with a well-placed free ball.

Kills by Howell and Cruz helped Ignacio stave off game point twice, but another passing error conceded the game, and 2-0 lead in the match, to Ouray. Four more mistakes early in Game three resulted in Lady Trojan points, allowing OHS to go ahead 7-3, and the ’Cats would claw no closer than 8-7 before Alvarez tooled a Howell block, then fired an ace after a lift violation against IHS.

Victimized earlier, Howe almost took her revenge when Ignacio made one last bid to force a fourth game.  Given the serve at 19-13, Howe landed an ace, which Howell followed with a clever running tip shot.  Another Howe service gem pressed Durham into an urgent timeout, and her eager team responded.

Alvarez smacked a kill to rebuild the lead to 22-16, and after IHS senior Kiana Valdez served long at 22-18, Alvarez landed another ace to bring up match point—achieved two exchanges later when Cruz netted an attack.

Alvarez totaled eight kills at a .455 rate to pace OHS, while seniors Jaden Kunz and Evelyn Wood each downed four as Wood distributed 14 assists. In the Mancos match, MHS junior Magdalena Halls put down 13 kills and senior Morgan Rose six, with junior setter Emmalee Asnicar totaling 24 assists.

Individual figures for the ’Cats had not been totaled as of press time, though Howell and Cruz put down their fair share of shots with freshman Alexis Pontine handling the setting at Ouray and sophomore Marisa Carmenoros and senior Heather Kerrigan sharing the task versus Mancos.

“Makayla again was a real positive leader; she’s bringing the fire to the team,” stated Cano.  “Two girls right there…actually stood out—Reyna and especially Makayla—and the rest are going to have to work through it.  We’ll be working…and be ready.”

Up next, Ignacio will visit Telluride on Saturday, Sept. 15, then host Dolores on Sept. 18, with both matches key to the team’s standing within the SJBL’s 2A half.  The crew will then travel east for the aforementioned Simla Invitational on Sept. 22, with KCHS—ranked #1 in the 9/10 CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll (the hosting Lady Cubs stood #7 in the 2A rankings)—one known opponent.

Results from the Volleycats’ 9/13 non-league home match against Montezuma-Cortez (1-2, 0-1 3A Intermountain) were unavailable at press time.

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