Mon Sep 12th, 2022
Special to the Drum
If anything could make a 5:30 a.m. bus-ride roll call bearable for a high-school volleyball player, it would have to be a victory – even of the predominantly nerve-wracking, rally-driven sort – secured at roughly 8 p.m. the previous night.
Making their IHS Gymnasium debut Thursday, September 1, that’s exactly what Ignacio’s Volleycats earned, with an early Friday departure for Kremmling and the two-day West Grand Invitational but a short night’s snooze away.
Facing a much-improved Norwood squad, having recently notched their first win in 2022 after four previous tries, IHS needed to dig deep to avoid disaster. But behind clutch serving, particularly from junior Kacey Brown early and sophomore Ollyvia Howe late, the home side swiped the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League match 26-24, 25-13, 25-22.
“I think what was most important,” said head coach Shasta Pontine, “was that they learned how to play from behind.”
“We started off slow,” senior setter Laci Brunson said. “I mean, when you’re in a slow game it’s hard to step up and play at your full potential, but I think we all stepped up to finish the game in three – which was really important.”
Not 48 hours removed from a five-game league loss at 2A-level rival Mancos, Ignacio (1-3, 1-1 2A/1A SJBL) traded relatively evenly early on with new-this-year-but-been-there-before NHS skipper Ramona Rummel’s Lady Mavericks, who suddenly took command in Game 1 with a six-point run giving them a 14-10 lead.
Things only got better for the guests, who inexplicably found themselves sitting on game point, 24-17 when IHS senior Trinity Strohl served long. NHS sophomore Grace Harris then netted a serve herself, putting Brown at the service line. Sending over accurate delivery after accurate delivery, limiting Norwood’s offensive options, Brown’s work ultimately yielded two Howe put-aways and one from junior Solymar Cosio, and goaded NHS senior Grace Fourney into two unforced errors.
Rummel called a timeout with the Lady Mavs still up 24-23, but Brown responded by acing sophomore Kendra McCluer to complete the comeback. Cosio then smacked a shot through the visitors’ middle, and sophomore Amber Bockrath was unable to push a free ball back over the strings, giving Ignacio a 25-24 lead. Brown then polished off an eight-point stay on serve with a harsh ace of McCluer.
“Feels really good,” Brown said of the Volleycats’ first win this fall. “I was just trying to do my job, get my serves in!”
Able to gain a 2-1 lead early in Game 2, IHS confidently gained a 2-0 lead in the match by never looking back. Consecutive Brunson aces of Bockrath helped Ignacio inflate the advantage to 14-9, and when Rummel used her second timeout of the game, she did so with NHS trailing 22-12 and Brown about to toe the service line.
Brown nevertheless fired an ace, Cosio followed with a kill off Harris, and IHS claimed the game when Norwood’s Dilyn Alexander spiked a shot long.
But 1A Norwood (1-5, 0-1 SJBL) wasn’t finished in the least. Racing out to a 5-2 lead after Alexander regrouped to immediately knock Brunson off serve with a scoring tip, the Lady Mavericks kept up their nothing-to-lose pressure and somehow widened the gap to 17-6. Back-to-back Marissa Olguin kills brought Ignacio back to 17-10, and Howe would step back to serve at 19-13. Recreating Brown’s stretch, Howe held serve for nine straight points as the ’Cats clawed ahead to 22-19.
“We’d been struggling with our serving,” Brunson said, “so everybody stepping up tonight and getting good service runs will help them individually, but it’ll really help our team.”
Rummel took a timeout, and despite IHS subsequently surrendering two points via errors, NHS more or less ran out of time as Ignacio senior Harmony Reynolds wrote the match into history with a solid cross-court kill.
“The team’s been coming together,” said Brown, “and even with our first three losses … each game we’re getting better.”
“It’s an awesome boost of confidence for us to have our first win,” Brunson stated. “Mancos was a big loss – that we could have won, but if we all come together and do what we need to do, we could maybe win one at West Grand.”
IHS’ win came after three outings’ worth of trying, starting with a season-opening 22-25, 12-25, 26-24, 15-25 loss Tuesday, August 23, at 3A Montezuma-Cortez. The ’Cats then fell 25-17, 22-25, 20-25, 24-26 at non-league 2A Del Norte two nights later, before losing 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 24-26, 10-15 on the 30th at MHS.