Ignacio's Ellie Seibel
Ignacio's Miel Diaz
Ignacio C-team member Bailey Wyatt
Ignacio's Ellie Seibel (5) looks up towards her descending target, with space awaiting between two defending Telluride Lady Miners, Oct. 11 inside the MinerDome.
Ignacio's Miel Diaz (7) spikes into a group of three Telluride Lady Miners, Oct. 11 inside the MinerDome.
Ignacio C-team member Bailey Wyatt (foreground, left) and JV player Selena Cook lead future varsity Volleycats in cheers despite the efforts of a roaring, much larger Telluride fan base to drown them out, Oct. 11 inside the MinerDome. Telluride hosted IHS for Homecoming but nearly got more than they bargained for with Ignacio taking the match to a tiebreaking fifth game before losing, 3 games to 2.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Thumbnail image of Ignacio's Ellie Seibel
Thumbnail image of Ignacio's Miel Diaz
Thumbnail image of Ignacio C-team member Bailey Wyatt

Loss at THS refocuses Volleycats

Unusual as the town itself, Telluride High School’s Homecoming Royalty was presented characteristically Friday night, Oct. 11, inside the MinerDome.

Preempting the varsity match against Ignacio, and requiring the takedown of the net and standards, the visiting Volleycats were forced – for lack of a better word – to sit back, relax, and take in all the pageantry as de facto “subjects” of the about-to-be-announced king and queen.

Neither Carson Brumley nor Mikaela Balkind, both THS Volleyball seniors, were awarded the crown to complement their gown, but a nail-biting defeat of IHS wasn’t a bad accessory to their white-and-maroon uniforms – hurriedly donned in a pregame change after flourishing their finery.

But victory required quite an uphill climb after the Cats, possibly lulled into a laid-back state by the delayed start, knocked the Lady Miners down from the quickly-gained high ground. Having shown 4A Aztec, N.M., their potential in a close, three-game road loss three nights before, Ignacio gave Telluride a long look at it in a 18-25, 15-25, 25-22, 25-20, 13-15 defeat.

“Our coach would just tell us ‘It’s fine. You’ll do fine; just breathe.’ And we just did what he said,” said senior Cloe Seibel of Thad Cano’s in-huddle comments during the grinder. “And if we lose … we’re going to lose with a battle. That’s how it was.”

“We’ve kind of done it a lot, where we get up two games, lose the next two, and then get a close fifth game,” said Telluride’s McKenna Brumley. “Don’t know what it is. I think we’re all just getting tired.”

“The girls heard our program there – we had all three teams there cheering, the bench was cheering … that made a world of difference,” Cano said. “I’m just so happy with the program and the direction it’s going. The girls are supporting one another.”

And the Cats (3-12, 3-10 2A/1A San Juan Basin League) needed every last bit of volume, provided mainly by the JV and C-team – many of whom double as IHS Cheer Squad members – against a raucous Miner Union fan base ready to storm the floor even before the match was concluded.

Telluride senior Erin Kean’s elated hug of Brumley in Game 1, after the junior’s block of Angela Herrera upped the locals’ lead to 21-16, was a pretty good on-court indicator of just how hyped that half of the house really was. Their team’s racing out to a 5-0 lead, via four Ignacio errors and a Kean kill, had already set the tone and pace they had sought.

Ignacio fought back, and an Ellie Seibel kill sliced Telluride’s lead to just 14-13, too close for head coach Fawnda Rogers’ liking. After her timeout, THS got the last break they’d need when sophomore Miel Diaz put an attack into the net. Kean followed with a kill, and the Lady Miners were again off and running toward taking – accomplished by senior Pia Sladecek mashing a ball down between Herrera’s hands and the net – a 1-0 lead in the match.

Ignacio scored first beginning Game 2, but Sladecek’s overpass-kill tying the count at 3-3 was the first point with Balkind on what would be a 10-point stay (ended only by a THS passing error) at the service line. Consecutive finishes by Kean put the Lady Miners on game point, 24-12, but two net infractions against THS and an Ellie Seibel (10 kills) spike again had Rogers thinking “regroup.”

Volleycat libero Chrystianne Valdez then netted her jump serve and IHS appeared in big trouble. Until an unlikely voice spoke up after the sides again swapped benches.

“There at the start of the third, Cheyenne [Cook] just stepped up and, basically, ripped the girls – said, ‘Hey! Let’s get this done now!’” Cano said. “Chey’s a very quiet senior; they listened to her and went forward from there. She’s the one who turned them around.”

Setter Cloe Seibel (39 assists, 7 aces, 4 kills) fired two aces beginning Game 3, and after a short see-saw scrap left the score even at seven, Ignacio took the lead for good on a Telluride blocking error. Diaz followed with a kill, and after Rogers attempted another momentum-disrupting timeout, Carson Brumley put a back-row swing into the strings and Cook then emphatically rejected Kean – proving the Volleycats weren’t going out shut-out.

Telluride (now 8-6, 5-6) rallied back to as close as 23-22 on a netted Herrera serve, but Cook came through with a kill and Diaz then drilled one off Kean to put Ignacio back in the mix.

Game 4 mimicked its predecessor, with Diaz opening with a kill and Kean netting a roll shot to put Ignacio up by an early pair. Another see-saw session followed, with Telluride this time coming out ahead at 6-5 and forcing IHS to rally back to 10-all on a Cloe Seibel ace off senior Karla Martinez. And after one last THS surge, Diaz pounded down the first of four big kills while Herrera (8 kills, 9 digs) held serve all the way until finally mis-hitting one and allowing the Lady Miners one last crack, down 24-16.

“I think it was just the Telluride crowd! They were egging me on … just, like, pushing some energy out of me that I only get really rarely,” said Diaz, who totaled 12 kills. “And I needed to do that, just to show them that I’m better than … getting down on myself from them cheering.”

Sladecek held serve until 24-20, but Cook (6 kills, 4 digs, 2 blocks) set up a Game 5 with a kill.

And the tiebreaker – the Lady Miners’ fifth, and Ignacio’s third this season – was precisely what one observing firsthand, or simply familiar with the two SJBL rivals, would have expected.

Long rallies, desperate dives, occasional mistakes stemming from pressured nerves, and action right down to Kean’s deciding tip shot over a double block, three points after Ellie Seibel downed a kill to put the Cats within sight of sending folks out to the bonfire much quieter than they entered the gym.

“I was just thinking about what Cheyenne said earlier, that she doesn’t want an attitude out on the court, and that we need to fight together because this is the seniors’ last time playing in Telluride,” said Diaz, who served just long after Seibel’s shot, giving THS ball-in-hand at 13-13. “And just like last year – I said I fought for those seniors – I was back there thinking of the seniors every single second. I want them to excel.”

The Volleycats’ regular season ends with two non-league dates. First up is a triangular scheduled for Oct. 19, out in Center against the 2A Lady Vikings as well as 1A Saguache Mountain Valley/Moffat, though Cano noted there was a possibility that a match versus 3A Monte Vista might replace the twin test.

3A Pagosa Springs is then slated to visit IHS Gymnasium on the 22nd for Senior Night.

Results from the Oct. 15 trip to 3A Bayfield were unavailable at press time

“The girls are absolutely ready. Usually if a coach is more prepared than the players, you worry. This time the players are more prepared than the coach, probably,” joked Cano, set to oppose former Ignacio head coach Terene Foutz, whose Lady Wolverines went in 13-3 overall during her first season.

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