Spikers suffer second five-game SJBL stunner

Ignacio’s Charlize Valdez (3) times a block perfectly on Telluride’s Danika Petit (14) during San Juan Basin League action Saturday, Sept. 21, inside IHS Gymnasium.
Trennie Collins | The Southern Ute Drum

Telluride drops IHS to 0-2 versus league’s 2A side

Having seen the ‘real’ Ignacio arrive in Game Two, then practically kick the proverbial door off its hinges in Game Three, Telluride Volleyball head coach Rhea dePagter virtually knew the teams were destined for a tiebreaking fifth game Saturday afternoon, Sept. 21.

“We knew coming into it,” she laughed afterwards.  “Ignacio always has a very good team, Thaddeus is a phenomenal coach—we knew it was going to be a battle.  And…we’d talked about fighting for every point.”

But as the San Juan Basin League engagement progressed inside IHS Gymnasium, the visiting Lady Miners found themselves losing that rumble.  After repelling an early Volleycat charge and taking a 10-9 lead in Game Four—while up two games to one in the match—THS began seeing a promising 15-10 advantage crumble.

IHS junior Charlize Valdez downed a kill, and sophomore Alexis Pontine followed with an ace on serve.  Telluride’s Danika Petit—the guests’ only senior—responded with a kill, but dePagter was pressed into a timeout after sophomore Emery Berry served long and freshman Emma Righetti smacked a ball wide and out of bounds.

Six rallies later, the ’Cats had clawed themselves level with a Grace Gonzales ace finally evening things at 18-18.  Two Telluride errors then gave Ignacio a thin cushion, and the home side proceeded to show its skill en route to tying the match 2-2.

Ignacio’s Makayla Howell (7) goes up to block Telluride’s Bella Galbo during San Juan Basin League action Saturday, Sept. 21, inside IHS Gymnasium.

Senior Makayla Howell rejected Lady Miner Bella Galbo to maintain a two-point pad, 21-19, and Valdez then pushed a ball delicately into a vacated deep corner. Berry then hit long, and Howell brought up game point with an ace—similar to three consecutive gems she’d landed midway through Game Three, forcing dePagter to stop play with THS trailing 15-9 at the time (and ultimately 25-15).

Berry managed to counter with a clever push shot into open space, and Gonzales then surrendered another point with a serve-reception error, but with Galbo holding serve, Valdez pounded down a kill for a clutch 25-21 win.

“Ignacio’s always a very strong-serving team, and they like to run a lot of fast sets so we focused on passing a ton,” dePagter said.  “That did break down a little bit in Games Three and Four, hence why Ignacio pulled out the win(s).”

And with his crew having fallen ‘behind the eight-ball’ with a 25-21 loss—finalized, fittingly by a kill from Berry, wearing No. 8 on her back—in Game One, but then gradually awakening during a 25-21 Game Two loss which featured 19 ties-of-score, Cano noted the play of junior Jayden Brunson, assigned setting duty while incumbent junior Marisa Carmenoros was asked to help reinforce the back row.

“For five…I think she did amazingly well in that new position,” he stated.  “I could see she was feeling the pressure, and we’ve got to work on her releases to our middles a little faster…but that will all come with time.  It was her first big match setting, and she’s only going to get better.”

THS setter Morgan Watkinson began Game Five on serve, but Pontine put down a kill to get IHS on track to a quick 4-1 lead.  dePagter immediately called timeout, and the Lady Miners responded to tie at 4-4 via two Petit aces.  Known for hitting hard, Gonzales answered with a slower, successful roll shot, but Howell was caught in the net during the next exchange.

With unexpected assistance from teammate Marisa Carmenoros, Ignacio’s Grace Gonzales (10) somehow makes a pass to the front row during San Juan Basin League action Saturday, Sept. 21, versus Telluride inside IHS Gymnasium.

Telluride sophomore Ally Tealdi then zipped an ace, and Righetti angled a kill to put the outsiders up 7-5 and give Cano cause for a pause.  But after a Howell spike brought Ignacio back to as close as 8-7, the ’Cats would get no closer than two points the rest of the way as a Berry kill brought up match point at 14-10.

She then netted her serve, but after IHS restarted play Petit promptly crushed a kill from the middle to clinch a 25-21, 25-21, 15-25, 21-25, 15-11 victory—saddling Ignacio with a second full-pull setback against the SJBL’s 2A side (Mancos won 20-25, 25-21, 18-25, 25-19, 15-10 on Sept. 12) already prior to visiting defending circuit champs Dolores on Tuesday, Sept. 24.

“I’m really looking forward to that,” said Cano.  “We definitely need to be a little more aggressive at the serving line, and consistently.  Makayla and Grace in that third set, you know, they poured it on—good decisions, good hard serves—but…. We just weren’t ‘firing.’”

“I’ve got to figure out how to relate the serving practice to a game situation; it’s not transferring, you know?  We’ll definitely be working on that…between our matches.”

“Passing, not playing scared, swinging hard—I think that really helped us pull through Game Five,” dePagter said.  “Ignacio’s going to score points, we’re going to score points, and it’s just going to be a battle to 25.  I’d say overall we stuck to our game plan pretty well.”

Standing 4-2 overall, 2-2 against the entire 2A/1A SJBL but 0-2 versus its 2A members prior to invading DHS (results were unavailable at press time), the Volleycats will next travel to the always-intense Sept. 28 Simla Invitational before taking a break to prepare for an Oct. 5 visit from 1A Nucla.

Results from the team’s Sept. 26 trip to 3A Pagosa Springs were also unavailable at press time, and Cano mentioned IHS may find another foe the next evening—en route to distant Elbert County—to replace a date with 3A Montezuma-Cortez.

“It’s not over,” Cano said of the Telluride-complicated SJBL title chase. “We’re going to keep trucking forward.”

Having defeated Ridgway the night before venturing to Ignacio, the Lady Miners’ respective marks improved to 9-2, 3-1, 2-1 prior to a Sept. 26 road match at 1A Ouray.

“We’re taking it game by game…definitely don’t want to get cocky,” said dePagter, whose team hosts IHS on Oct. 12.  “Our league has very good competition you know —  Ignacio, Mancos was a battle, Dolores, Dove Creek, and on and on!”

“So, we’re really trying to focus…and if we do our part, the rest will come—and the postseason will come.”

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