Fri Oct 8th, 2021
Special to the Drum
IHS resuming league work on a hot streak
Between blitzing 2A South Park and squaring off against 2A Crested Butte Saturday, Oct. 2, at neutral Creede High School, Alexis Pontine commented casually that she hoped the closing match would commence as soon as possible. Why? Afterwards, she had plans.
Battle plans too, apparently, in order to get to the primary plans. In other words, to return home in time for a Fellowship of Christian Athletes bonfire, Ignacio’s senior wanted to be on fire as the Volleycats sought a fourth consecutive win.
But after taking a 25-14 drubbing in Game 1, non-league CBCS capitalized upon numerous IHS errors to race out to leads of 5-0 and 10-6 early in Game 2. Scoring with a soft tip shot to put herself on serve and the ’Cats down three, Pontine then proceeded to hold serve for the next 18 exchanges, with all causing chaos on the opposite side of the strings.
And with IHS suddenly leading 24-10, only the netted last of the lot failed to produce an Ignacio point. Seconds later, the exasperated Lady Titans would return the favor, netting the ensuing serve and surrendering the second session 25-11.
Unable to recompose even remotely sufficiently, Crested Butte fell victim to a Pontine kill starting Game 3 and would lead for only a moment at 2-1 before the ’Cats, after regaining a 3-2 advantage, cruised to a 25-10 conquest – powered by Pontine firing a devastating five straight aces in seven total tries after first standing behind the line with Ignacio up 8-4.
“That’s some of the toughest serving my team’s seen this season,” declared CBCS head coach Cierra Abbott, a former Western Colorado University player, “and I think they did a good job handling it – especially with the girls I had playing in spots they don’t usually play. They gave everything they had and did the best they could.”
“They have some phenomenal servers; they can do a lot of really, really good things with the ball … and they will keep you out of system,” she continued. “But playing a high-level team like Ignacio, it’s really nice; you can see where your team steps up and plays up, and you start to see where your gaps are and how you can fill those gaps for your coming matches.”
“This is good momentum going forward, especially coming back from our COVID quarantine…when we don’t have our full team here and we’re still beating teams 25 to 10,” Pontine said, referencing the previous weekend’s unfortunate inactivity.
Also missing players and also with others assuming unfamiliar roles, skipper Shasta Pontine’s under-the-radar squad nonetheless improved to 8-2 overall (still 5-1 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) after having also swept South Park 25-18, 25-21, 25-11 earlier in the day – a contest mirroring the previous night’s 25-16, 25-14, 25-7 rout inside IHS Gymnasium of ravaged SJBLers Ridgway.
“I was excited; we never see ’em, and so it’s someone new to play,” said sophomore Kacey Brown, a setter relocated to the middle against RHS – where she logged two reported blocks – and then to more of a back-row specialist for the matches in Creede, with sophomore Solymar Cosio anchoring a front line regularly including senior Lexy Young and promoted freshman Ollyvia Howe, and junior Laci Brunson handling the setting to hitters Pontine and junior Grace Gonzales.
“I think we did good,” she added, “but Ridgway … I don’t know how to explain it. It just was really slow.”
“We just played down to their level – it was not that good,” agreed sophomore Maci Barnes, who donned a libero jersey during the Saturday sweeps in place of absent junior Trinity Strohl. “But yeah, I think it’s pretty cool we’re playing people we don’t usually play. It helps us see that every team’s different and how we can, like, adapt to help each other play.”
That came in most handy against non-league, Fairplay-based SPHS, after both teams had to wait until 1A Creede completed a wild come-from-behind 20-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-21, 15-6 win over Crested Butte in the day’s opening clash.
South Park would gain the upper hand just four times in the entire match, and led for a grand total of four points, but nearly slow-played themselves into unexpected contention late in Games 1 and 2 – rallying back to as close as 18-16 in the former before Gonzales pounded a back-row kill and Pontine followed with an ace, then coming as near as 22-20 in the latter before senior Mikayla Batts netted a serve and Pontine brought up game point with a deft dink.
“Sitting for a long time and then playing … . It takes us a while to warm up, but once we do we’re good,” said Pontine.
“The first (game) was rough,” Barnes said. “The second was worse, then in the third we kind of got more energetic.”
Game 3 saw the Volleycats begin with a Howe kill, and after another Pontine tip erased what would be the Lady Burros’ last lead and tied the score at 2-all, Brown gave a hint of the serving show yet to come with an untouched ace down the near line, followed by another untouched gem right into the heart of SPHS’ court.
Brunson then managed to score with a lucky free ball and Brown zipped over another ace. Following an outstanding Young dig, Pontine placed yet another tip for a 7-2 advantage seriously approached only when a Lindsay Wishowski roll shot brought South Park back to 11-7. Young responded by crushing a kill through the middle, and Barnes then began a five-point service stint.
Young enthusiastically landed an ace – part of a six-serve stay – to further increase IHS’ lead to 22-8, and after SPHS soon netted a back-row free ball to bring up match point, Gonzales zinged an ace off Batts’ wing to punctuate the victory.
“We just looked for the weakest player, and … kept aiming for that spot as much as we could,” explained Brown.
South Park would rebound promptly from the defeat, sweeping CHS 25-16, 25-21, 25-18 to improve to 5-7 while dropping the Lady Miners to 5-6. Crested Butte, meanwhile, ended the day sinking to 3-14 overall.
“It’s really exciting having the wins,” Pontine said. “I mean, they are (against) lower-level teams but … I think we’re all working well together; we have really good chemistry on the court.”
Up next, the ’Cats will travel to Nucla Sat., Oct. 9. Results from IHS’ designated Homecoming Week match Thurs., Oct. 7, versus Mancos were unavailable at press time. Having lost three of four matches prior to arriving, the Lady Jays had slipped to 5-7 overall and were seeking more consistency.
“Trying to do too much with the ball…. It’s just some growing pains,” said head coach Brianna Yeomans-Allison. “Keeping it simple, doing what we know how to do … . We’re getting there.”