The enemy’s middle viciously pierced by a golden spike of his team’s first set, Ignacio senior Amya Bison – destroying freshman Shoshone Thompson’s tee-up on the quick – provided exactly the Homecoming Week start that Thad Cano sought and at which Mancos’ Brittany Lang shuddered.
“I was trying to get so I could block,” said MHS junior Taryn Gordanier, “but it was really good.”
Cano has been telling the lady cats to start the offense off right and focus on getting the ball to the middle.
“Coach likes to have, in the beginning of the season, more work on the middle so by the end we have it all down,” said IHS junior Ellie Seibel. “Now, we’re kind of a little shaky in the middle, but we still have to keep feeding them!”
Not even 48 hours later, on Saturday, Sept. 13 the Lady Cats found themselves again not only trying to control the net, but also trying to do so against another height- and experience-blessed San Juan Basin League squad .
“I think we can be even better this year,” said Ridgway senior Danielle McKelvey, alluding to last year’s Class 2A State Championships berth, leading to #6 standing in the CHSAANow.com Preseason [released August 11th] 2014 poll.
“We’re going to go for State – that’s our big goal this year,” Gordanier had said.
Similar sentiments, unfortunately yielding similar sweeps of the developing Lady Cats.
After falling behind 3-0 in Game 1 inside Ignacio Middle School Gymnasium Thursday, Sept. 11, Mancos rebounded to build leads maxing out at nine points in 25-18, 25-20 wins – giving Lang’s Lady Jays (now 4-1 overall, 2-1 SJBL) a 2-0 lead in the match.
Tracy Hill’s Lady Demons, playing through a Game 1 scare when standout junior Kaitlyn Rutherford went down with a wracked ankle following an unintended landing upon the foot of Ignacio junior Chrystianne Valdez, built up a lead as great as nine in an eventual 25-19 win, and as great as ten (with Rutherford taped up and back on the court) in taking Game 2 25-17.
Both visiting squads faced Ignacio’s best overall efforts in the teams’ respective Game 3’s. The Lady Cats, motivated by three consecutive Seibel aces pressing Lang into a timeout with the score even at 16, took late leads of 18-17 and 19-18 before four consecutive IHS errors and a Nicole Hess ace gave MHS a four-point lead; they would hang on to win by the same margin, 25-21.
Sophomore Kaylee Rose led the Jays with eight kills, and senior Courtney Colyer had six to go with 14 digs (senior libero Jessica Willburn topped that category with 17).
“Consistency is key – whether it’s a power serve or it’s just in, we want consistency,” said Lang. “We’ve really been working on balancing our play, having fewer errors than earned points.”
And after the Lady Cats scrapped and clawed to lead multiple times late versus Ridgway, a McKelvey kill brought the Lady Demons (3-1, 3-0) level at 9-all, and after Ignacio fought back to re-tie at 12, RHS went on a 5-1 burst from which IHS (1-4, 1-2) did not recover in falling 25-17.
“We’ve always prepared for something … like that,” sophomore setter Ara Norwood (16 assists) said of the early Rutherford incident. “Coach is like, ‘Let’s be ready for if that happens,’ so we’ve kind of been ready. And then just play together.”
Rutherford managed to pace RHS with 11 kills and also came up with five digs.
“We were definitely more focused because it was Homecoming Week, and we did have home games,” said Valdez. “We wanted to kill it, but I think we always have fun playing. It was a good week.”
“I think that we definitely improved,” she continued. “We had different rotations in both, so adapting to each rotation is helping us improve our all-around playing – as players and as a team.”
Seibel was credited with nine kills combined (Thompson totaled 22 assists), and led against Mancos with seven total blocks. Bison had five kills and a team-high five blocks versus Ridgway.
“Our block – our swing block – is coming along great,” said Cano. “I’m tickled about that now!”
Up next the Lady ’Cats will head out east to the Sept. 20 Simla Invitational, at which Rye, Wray, Vail Mountain and Hoehne are also scheduled to attend.
“It’s definitely not the best feeling losing two of your very few home games,” Valdez (17 total digs) said. “But by the end of the season we’re going to be killing it! That’s what we’re focused on right now, pushing towards the end of the season.”