Fri Nov 5th, 2021
Special to the Drum
2-2 in Rye, Ignacio gets 2A-Region XII
Distinctive amongst Colorado prep volleyball coaches in that he joins – if not initiates – his players’ celebrations depending on what a point-producing play warrants, Hoehne’s Tyrel Mincic-Barry kept his loudest cheer this past weekend out in the Greenhorn Valley contained.
After all, it was one he wasn’t sure he’d be able to utter.
For with the Lady Farmers on the cusp of being able to host a three-team postseason regional, he knew they’d have to get past as-yet under-the-radar Ignacio – also looking to secure hosting rights as another chapter in their own historic season – in the four-team Rye Invitational’s Day 2 bonus match Saturday afternoon, Oct. 30.
“We’re sitting 13th going into this game, so this is big for us,” he said, referring to HHS’ standing in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 2A Volleyball Rating Percentage Index. “We’ll kind of have to wait to see what the RPI says, and what the [CHSAANow.com] Coaches’ poll says tomorrow; we’re crossing our fingers here.”
Able to take the first two games of the contest, a late add-on for both teams as a make-up for matches missed earlier due to COVID-19 issues, Hoehne ran into the real Volleycats in Game 3 – a team which fell behind 8-7 after a booming kill by HHS’ Janae Ramos, but mentally regrouped and fought all the way back to tie at 14-14 via an Alexis Pontine tip shot. And though Hoehne again forged ahead, 22-20, IHS wouldn’t let go knowing how important a victory would be.
Closing out on a 5-0 run triggered by a Harmony Reynolds kill and one from Pontine, the ’Cats reached game point after consecutive Lady Farmer errors, and sophomore Kacey Brown, put on serve after Reynolds’ kill, kept Ignacio alive with an ace of Mackenzie Gauna.
And Game 4 would begin as a continuation, with Ignacio capitalizing upon Jessica Sakariason’s initial netted serve and taking a 5-1 lead before HHS began chipping away and eventually tied the score at 10-all. Able to establish something of an upper hand, Hoehne again found themselves facing a motivated side and lost the lead at 20-20 after Reynolds – kept out of IHS’ 2A/1A San Juan Basin League finale at Dolores a few nights before as a precaution against a right ankle rolled during a loss (on the second-to-last point) at non-league Sargent the previous Saturday – blocked Ronni San Roman for a point and then smashed another kill.
IHS would again get to game point first, via a Solymar Cosio put-away giving the ’Cats a 24-23 advantage. But the Lady Farmers, now just as energized and fully knowing the stakes, wouldn’t break; Ramos tied with a soft roll shot, and HHS then took the lead after Laci Brunson was called for a double-contact. As one might expect, Ignacio skipper Shasta Pontine called a timeout, but like Brown the previous game, Hoehne put the match away with Carli Valdez acing libero Trinity Strohl.
The 22-25, 19-25, 25-22, 24-26 setback gave the ’Cats 15 games’ worth of action within 24 hours. And combined with Day 2 tourney wins over Sanford (25-21, 20-25, 26-24, 17-25, 15-12) and Trinidad (25-18, 25-9, 25-15), plus a lackluster Day 1 loss to RHS (19-25, 19-25, 15-25), left Ignacio with a 17-6 overall match record and No. 15 RPI standing.
“It’s one we shouldn’t have lost,” Pontine said afterwards. “Then … I thought, ‘Man I hope something changes and we can still host.’ They’ve worked really hard and deserve to. Hoehne was, like, a fun game and they really did well even though we came out with a loss.”
“We’re going to see what this win does – and what everybody else did – and if we can get into that top 12 and host,” Mincic-Barry said.
While IHS actually rose one spot while keeping the same .571 RPI, HHS’ victory bumped them from No. 13 (.575) up to No. 11 (.583). Released the next morning, the final regular-season CHSAANow.com poll showed HHS climbing to No. 10, and IHS – previously an afterthought – elevated suddenly to the top ‘Others Receiving Votes’ pick.
And Monday, Nov. 1, it was revealed: Both Hoehne (15-6 overall), by way of RPI, and Ignacio, via mainly their 8-0 record against the SJBL’s 2A side, will be hosting regionals.
“I’ve had people texting me, and I’m like, ‘No! I’m driving!’” Pontine said Monday night. “I’m like in shock; I have to make sure it’s real. I was looking on the boards today in the gym – I don’t even know when the last time (a regional) was at home!”
And one of the first individuals to inform, and no doubt congratulate the first-year head coach was Mincic-Barry.
“Tyrel and I are pretty good friends … and so when I met up with him when we played them, that was so much fun,” Shasta Pontine said. “He’s one of the people that texted me to let me know … we were hosting! And he’s hosting too; it worked out really good for both of us.”
“But this team has been good for the last … I don’t know … three years,” she continued. “Last year was a (preview); they should have been doing this well. So, to step in and continue …. It’s awesome they’re starting to believe … how good they really are.”
“I feel we have a lot of potential,” said Cosio. “On our bench, our team … anyone can step in and do their job.”
Awarded Region XII beginning the 36-team postseason, Ignacio will next welcome 13-seed Greeley Union Colony plus 25-seed Collbran Plateau Valley into IHS Gymnasium for a tense Saturday, Nov. 6.
UC will arrive standing 16-7 overall following a forfeit over Nederland (0-17), which did not win even one game all season, in their regular-season finale; PV, meanwhile, stands 15-8 after a loss at Rangely (12-11). The Volleycats will get things underway facing PV at 9 a.m., with UC-PV following, and Ignacio-Union Colony ultimately closing the curtain.
“We’re very happy, very excited … it’s the first time in forever that this has happened; it’s probably a big blessing to us,” said IHS junior Grace Gonzales. “And we’re proud of all the teams that have played us too; they put up a fight every time.”
“I’m not nervous; I’m ready to play … been practicing for so long,” senior Lexy Young said. “I’ve been dreaming about this moment – being a senior, it’s my last year – so … just have fun, be ready for the next game!”
“I’ve told them, ‘Let’s take care of our side, do what we do,’” said Pontine. “If we play our game, that’ll take care of the other side.”
Hoehne will host Region X Friday, Nov. 5, welcoming No. 15 Sargent (15-6) and No. 27 Lyons (16-7).
“We missed basically a whole month of the season due to quarantines, so we’re really kind of just getting into, you know, our groove,” Mincic-Barry said. “We started running a new lineup just three games ago, a big change, but … I’ve had girls come out of nowhere that have stepped up, really like to play. That’s a big help; I only have two seniors and three juniors in the program, so I’ve got a lot of kids figuring things out.”
After posting a winning 3-0 Invitational record, Rye – now 18-5 overall and boosted to No. 9 in the aforementioned 2A poll – will entertain 17-seed Calhan (15-7) and 29-seed Olathe (13-9) in Region VIII on the 6th.
“Coming in we were ready to play Sanford and Ignacio,” head coach Jamie Donlon said, following her squad’s 25-15, 25-20, 25-21 sweep of SHS on Day 2, locking up first place with IHS second, Sanford (13-9) third and Trinidad (4-17) fourth. “We knew they’d be tough – teams going to the playoffs – so we were kind of excited; my team came with confidence they really hadn’t had in the last couple weeks. That was … a big confidence-builder.”