Fri Mar 26th, 2021
Special to the Drum
Tags: 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, 2A Volleycats, Alex Benzie, Alexis Pontine, Bobcats Volleyball, Cass Rikkers, Charlize Valdez, Emily Medina, Grace Gonzales, Ignacio Bobcats, Jenna Brown, Laci Brunson, Lady Demons, Lexy Young, Pagosa, Ridgway, Sarah Firkins, Shelby Sisler, Thad Cano, Trinity Strohl
IHS falls to Pagosa, defeats Ridgway
Seeing Ridgway’s Emily Medina, her team trailing two games to none and on the verge of being swept, cap an unlikely 5-0 run pounding down two kills from the left side and then giving the guests new life by roofing an Alexis Pontine tip for a 26-24 Game 3 escape – displeased Ignacio head coach Melanie Seibel.
“You know … we’ve got to play all the way to the end and have that same energy, same intensity from the beginning all the way to the end,” she said after the March 20 match. “All the way to the end so we have no regrets, any would’ve-could’ves.”
“When we slowed down like that … we gave that game away.”
That fact undoubtedly made clear inside a huddle minutes before not expected to have been required, the ’Cats took the message to heart in Game 4. With teammate Shelby Sisler opening on serve, Medina gifted IHS a 1-0 lead via an attack sent long, and before the Lady Demons knew what hit them, the scoreboard showed 9-0.
Junior Lexy Young and sophomore Trinity Strohl each downed a kill, and Pontine’s serving then produced consecutive RHS reception errors – forcing Ridgway head coach Sarah Firkins into taking a timeout with her side trailing 5-0. Ignorant of the interruption’s intent, Pontine responded by first acing Sisler and then Cass Rikkers twice.
Rattled, Rikkers then surrendered another easy point by bumping a free ball into the net. And though senior setter Jenna Brown managed to finally get Ridgway on the board with a successful roll shot through Ignacio’s middle, the mental damage was done; when Firkins’ next timeout was taken, following a Strohl cross-court kill, RHS trailed 19-8.
“When we get up a few points our mindset really shifts from ‘Oh no, we’re down’ to being really up, getting momentum back,” said Medina. “It’s really tough when you start getting down – like in that fourth set – and try to turn that mindset back around … like when we did in that third set.”
IHS sophomore libero Laci Brunson would ace Sisler to widen the margin to 23-10, and despite Medina decking one last kill, the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League fixture was Ignacio’s; RHS junior Bella Janda served into the strings, putting IHS on match point – again – and Strohl then willed an ace through the top of the net, capping a 26-24, 25-20, 24-26, 25-11 triumph.
“The girls, they’re great, scrappy players. And usually, even in practice, we move really well together … the team bonding we have is really positive,” said Firkins. “You know, it’s a long drive over the pass and it took us time to wake up a bit.”
“We’re better than what we played like today, for sure. But we need to want it; today, Ignacio just wanted it more.”
And for good reason; the 2A Volleycats (1-1, 1-0 SJBL) had held an upper hand just three times during the previous evening’s season-opening 17-25, 18-25, 14-25 loss to 3A Pagosa Springs, trailing by as much as 18-7 in Game 3.
“We’ve been out of it for a long time; most of these girls haven’t played in forever,” Pontine said, alluding to the long-delayed Fall 2020 season at long last commencing in Spring ’21. “So just with our cooperation and putting in the work to get our chemistry down, I think it’ll come together.”
“I feel good about our season,” agreed sophomore Grace Gonzales. “I feel like it kind of came quick at us, with [Ignacio’s basketball and volleyball] schedules being so close together, but we’re going to…work on what we need to work on.”
“I’m playing a new position this year, the middle – I’m pretty proud of myself!” she beamed. “Got blocks tonight, and I felt great – I feel good about our team.”
“You know, we’re all starting fresh,” grinned Seibel, taking over for varsity predecessor Thad Cano after former ’Cat Alex Benzie (nee Forsythe) ultimately couldn’t break free from work obligations, “and it’s showing me what I need to work on, it being my first time. Knowing how to help the girls and make sure that I provide for them resources…. I feel good to keep going forward, to keep doing this, and seeing how we can always get better.”
“Me being that new coach, I’m real fortunate to have these girls here; they have the skills – Cano did a great job with that, and from them playing club, too – so just clicking with each other … it’s going to start coming. I think that as they start flowing, covering, trusting each other and themselves, and having that confidence, then I think this team is going to be really strong.”
Pontine was credited with a team-high 10 kills against 2A Ridgway (2-1, 2-1 SJBL) and totaled an impressive eight aces. Brunson and senior Marisa Carmenoros each landed five aces, while Strohl was credited with six to go with her seven kills. Young also recorded seven, while Gonzales finished with six as Pontine racked up 19 assists and Carmenoros 13 in Seibel’s 6-2 scheme.
Defensively, Brunson came up with 13 digs against the Lady Demons and Gonzales booked 11. Carmenoros came up with eight balls while Pontine and senior Charlize Valdez each logged seven.
Against PSHS, Pontine produced a nine-kill-eight-assist line offensively, while Carmenoros posted seven assists and as many digs defensively. Brunson’s 10 led IHS in that department, while Gonzales (five kills) came up with six digs and three solo blocks (she’d then log one solo and one assisted stuff against RHS).
Young contributed four kills and six digs, while Strohl registered four kills and three aces.
“Our slogan this year is ‘Competitive Greatness,’ which means that we’ll play competitively but we also want to be great – team players,” said Gonzales. “On a varsity team you have to be able to hold yourself accountable, be the team player everyone wants you to be. There’s no shortcuts; you have to be there all the time, be reliable, have no attitude, and stay positive. I feel this is a good year to learn all that.”
Up next, Ignacio will travel for SJBL dates at 1A Norwood (4 p.m. Friday, March 26) and at 2A Telluride (11 a.m. Sat., 3/27) before hosting 3A Montezuma-Cortez on Friday, April 2. Results from IHS’ 3/23 league match at home versus 2A Mancos were unavailable at press time.