Fri Dec 6th, 2019
Special to the Drum
Senior also appeared on CCGS All-State ballot
When the Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports held its All-State Volleyball selection meeting Sunday morning, Nov. 17, at Aspen Creek K-8 School in Broomfield, the name ‘Makayla Howell’ came up in conversation as top prospects for the organization’s Class 2A showcase, to be held one week later, were being considered.
But despite appearing on the ballot with fellow San Juan Basin League seniors Jordan Elder (Dolores), Magdalena Halls (Mancos), Emmalee Asnicar (Mancos) and Danika Petit (Telluride), the all-around versatile Ignacio middle would have ultimately been unable, yea or nay, to make the trip north to Broomfield High’s auxiliary Wilkerson Gym due to prior Thanksgiving week commitments.
None-the-less, simply being mentioned amongst the state’s best was appropriate icing on the cake for Howell, officially named First Team All-SJBL at season’s end – following DHS’ Day 2 elimination from the Nov. 14-16 CHSAA State Championships in Denver.
“If you were watching, she was doing the interactions, talking with all the young players, letting them know … ‘Hey, come on! We need you!’” head coach Thad Cano had said, following the Volleycats’ season-ending loss in Kremmling to 2A-Region VII host West Grand. “Makayla’s efforts were the reason the girls responded and played as hard as they did.”
“She’s the leader on the court, and just … the ‘glue’ that holds the team together,” said sophomore Alexis Pontine. “Makayla’s always been a big impact on the team.”
Motivated by Howell, Ignacio improved from 8-15 overall in 2018 to 13-12 in ’19.
Elder, sophomore Erin Brown and junior Sydney Smith represented the loop champion Lady Bears (21-6 overall) as First Teamers, along with Petit – listed along with Elder on the finalized CCGS All-State roster – and sophomore teammate Emery Berry. Unluckily denied a return trip to State in Class 1A, Dove Creek (21-2) was still properly recognized with three – seniors Cassie Gatlin and Taylor Hickman, junior Grace Hatfield – First Team recipients.
“We were able to work with what we’ve got,” said Hickman, “and … we can still continue to grow and play better.”
Joining the Lady Bulldogs were Norwood senior Lilli Parrino and junior Jenna Baugh, plus Nucla senior Aide Chavez.
IHS junior libero Ebonee Gomez was voted Second Team All-League from amongst its 2A members, along with Dolores counterpart Akira Edwards, also a junior, THS junior Morgan Watkinson, Halls, DHS sophomore Kamri Willbanks, and Ridgway senior Michaela Messer.
“I feel we have a really strong, close-knit team,” Halls said. “Practicing on … keeping scrappy, just playing to win – it was very fun to be able to experience that energy.”
DCHS senior Kiara Lingenfelter and junior Kobie Beanland headed the 1A crews’ Second Team picks, supplemented by Nucla senior Cheyenne Joseph, Norwood senior Morgan Wallace and junior Paige Franklin, plus Ouray senior Kaydee Alvarez.
Honorable Mention All-SJBL honorees included Ignacio junior setter Marisa Carmenoros, Asnicar, Telluride junior Kyra Levan, RHS junior Shelby Sisler, OHS sophomore Aynsleigh Wood, and Nucla senior Taylor Sutherland.
“We had three juniors that will be back next year, so we’ll be three seniors strong, two juniors strong,” said Cano. “And … it’ll be everyone battling for a spot in tryouts as usual! I’m totally delighted; the varsity squad … is going to be solid for a very long time.”
“There’s only two seniors in the whole program,” Howell said, referring to herself and JV-varsity swing player Bella Pena in 2019, “and … in general it’s really good to see the program growing that much, to see interest being brought into all these younger kids’ lives – starting from middle school, and even younger now. It’s good to see our future continuing to get better.”
DHS’ longtime skipper Gina Hollen was named Coach-of-the-Year, with Northern Arizona University-bound Elder receiving Player-of-the-Year distinction. “It was exciting, the way that we finished the season,” said Hollen, speaking on seeing her squad compete inside the Denver Coliseum, where Dolores was ultimately ousted by – coincidentally – West Grand in a five-game, roller-coaster clash.
“We obviously wanted to win … at State, but we fought hard and that’s all we can ask for,” Brown said. “We grew a lot, and our team just really came together at the end of the season. This is what we wanted.”