Fri Nov 8th, 2019
Special to the Drum
The 2019 volleyball season began for Ignacio with a three-pronged plan: League, Regionals, State.
Dreams of conquering the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League had been decidedly dashed, the Volleycats went into their regular-season-ending appearance at the November 1-2 Rye Invitational still believing the other objectives were obtainable.
Needing to avoid disaster in order to remain a top-36 team in CHSAA’s RPI standings, the No. 32 ’Cats clinched a postseason berth – and, for good measure, even rose two places to 30th – with strikingly similar showings versus Trinidad on Day 2 of the event.
Unable to short-circuit the hosting Lady Thunderbolts in the Day 1 finale after nearly a six-hour wait to play, Ignacio lost 15-25, 16-25, 20-25 and then began the Saturday session collapsing 31-29, 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 12-15 against Sanford in a clash lasting nearly two hours.
Scheduled to then face THS immediately after with third place at stake, IHS led Game 1 against the Lady Miners nearly wire-to-wire and prevailed 25-20 when Trinidad senior Julia Holden netted a back-row kill attempt, after Ignacio sophomore Lexy Young downed a cross-court spike to bring up game point.
Down 5-0 early in Game 2 after an ace-filled run on serve by Volleycat junior Marisa Carmenoros, Trinidad would respond in unexpected fashion, managing to eventually stave off game point four times and equalize at 24-24. Young then pounded a kill, only to see Holden blast one herself.
THS sophomore Rylie Pachelly then netted an attack, but had new life when IHS sophomore Alexis Pontine hit long. Pachelly then unluckily served into the net, however, and the ’Cats went up 2-0 in the match, 28-26, via a kill by freshman Grace Gonzales.
Knowing at least one win over the Lady Miners, tenth place in the 3A Tri-Peaks League during regular-season play, would likely guarantee the prolonging of their campaign, Ignacio built up a 10-7 lead in Game 3, only to then find out just how resolute Trinidad was as THS suddenly took an 11-10 upper hand.
The two sides would find themselves tied six more times down the stretch, until IHS junior Charlize Valdez scored with a block for a 23-22 lead. Gonzales followed with a kill, and after junior Jayden Brunson netted her match-point serve, Young put the issue to bed with one last kill.
Forced to endure another extensive wait as SHS stunned Rye 25-14, 15-25, 23-25, 27-25, 15-9 in the championship match, Thad Cano’s Volleycats and Jose Velazquez’s Lady Miners again took the court for a contest with no bearing on the tourney standings (similar to Sanford’s five-game win over Rocky Ford on Day 1).
The results were the same, with Ignacio prevailing 25-22, 26-24, 27-25 and exiting southwestern Pueblo County standing 13-10 overall. Falling to 57th (out of 73) in the 3A RPI standings, THS finished the season 6-16.
Gonzales’ 18 kills – at a reported .600 rate – paced IHS offensively in the first meeting, while senior Makayla Howell downed 11 at .611 and Young 10 at .455. Howell finished with a double-double, having also logged 15 digs – trailing junior libero Ebonee Gomez’s team-high 26 – while Carmenoros also recorded a double-double with 18 assists and 10 digs. Howell also racked up five solo and six total blocks defensively.
In the rematch, Howell smashed 18 kills at a scalding .643 clip, while Gonzales and Young each downed seven. Howell finished with another double-double, credited with 12 digs, and also posted six solo stuffs in a more defensive-oriented battle. Gomez logged an outstanding 34 digs, while Valdez came up with 11 and Pontine (who served five aces) ten.
Distributing 22 assists offensively, Carmenoros also registered another double-double with her 15 digs.
HAVE BALL, WILL TRAVEL
Regional-phase brackets were released Monday, Nov. 4, with Ignacio receiving the No. 30 seed and Region VII inclusion. Set to venture north to Kremmling, Colo., the ’Cats will first face 7-seed West Grand (19-4), then duel No. 18 Ault Highland (15-8). WGHS-HHS will then close the show, with only the first-place squad earning a trip to the State Championships in Denver.
With Rye becoming their sixth consecutive victim prior to the postseason, SHS improved to 13-8 overall while the Lady Thunderbolts – upset in five by Pueblo West-based Swallows Charter Academy the night before the tourney – fell to 15-8. RHS, however, slipped only slightly to 12th in RPI while Sanford climbed to 17th.
Seeded 17th for regionals, SHS will compete against 8-seed Fowler (16-7) and 29-seed Colorado Springs School (13-10) in Region VIII, while No. 12 Rye will host Region XII and entertain 13-seed Yuma (13-11) and No. 25 Calhan (11-11).