Spikers prevail in October-pink match
Losing Saturday, Oct. 11, was simply not an option.
Not only because the Cats were finally back on friendly ground – this time the SunUte Community Center court, rather than Ignacio Middle School Gymnasium – but because their full-pull battle with visiting Telluride ultimately became metaphorical of a far greater struggle.
“Just to know that you’re playing for these patients, it gives us hope,” said sophomore Alex Forsythe, of the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League match’s inclusion in the annual “Pink Digs for the Cure” series involving IHS, 3A Bayfield and 4A Durango during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
“Like, ‘Just keep pushing through!’” she continued. “I mean, their life is so hard right now and they keep pushing through. That’s what we can do, and that’s what we do during the game. It’s great knowing you’re playing for someone.”
That being stated, Ignacio still had to play for themselves on the smaller scale of their 2014 home finale – and never more urgently than after the Lady Miners somehow erased a 12-6 deficit in Game 5, and drew even in eerily similar fashion to their cancellation of IHS’ 23-19 advantage in Game 4.
“A huge margin for error!” quipped head coach Thad Cano afterwards.
Both rallies, in fact, began after junior libero Chrystianne Valdez stood smiling at the service line – prior to THS’ Fawnda Rogers’ timeout after nailing down an ace, and later while hustling back to quickly restart play after an IHS point against a stunned Telluride in the tiebreaker.
But both ended via kills delivered by Forsythe’s right hand, and Ignacio saved Game 4 25-23 after a Lady Miner freeball sailed out of play on game point, and soon saved a badly-needed win when freshman Chasity Bean stuffed a Telluride over-pass down and out of bounds off an enemy for the clincher.
“We were kind of getting down,” admitted Forsythe. “We just had to take a deep breath, like It’s o.k., let it all go … let’s smash ’em right here!”
Anytime we were down as team we helped each other back up, freshman Shoshone Thompson said.
“These girls are working so hard – I want to let everybody know how hard these young ladies are working,” Cano stressed after the 20-25, 25-18, 24-26, 25-23, 15-13 victory. “It’s definitely appreciated!”
The Lady Miners (5-12, 4-9 SJBL) managed to put the Cats (2-14, 2-8) in a hole early, when freshman middle Hannah Gundelfinger downed a kill off Bean to end Game 1.
But Ignacio, bent on ending a three-match road slide including a five-game loss at Dove Creek [Oct. 7; 15-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-20, 13-15] between a three-gamer at Ridgway and a four-gamer at Mancos, blasted their way out to a 9-1 lead in Game 2 after Thompson opened with a kill. The lead would balloon to as great as 13-3 and 15-5, and Rogers needed to burn her second stoppage of the stanza with her team trailing 16-8 after a Ryley Webb kill.
Thompson cleverly dumped a settable ball to even the match at one game apiece, but THS rebounded well in Game 3, forcing Cano to call time with Ignacio behind 14-12, and his second with the guests still leading at 22-18.
But just as Telluride senior Mikaela Balkind’s ace necessitated the breather, Webb’s serving reinvigorated the Cats – all the way back to a 24-24 tie – after exiting it.
“She’s been doing great the last couple games she’s played. And I’m really surprised, because she came in and she was … scared, you know,” Forsythe said. “And we’re like, ‘Don’t worry; you’re going to do great!’ She knows where she is on the court, knows the rotation, can hit the ball.”
THS senior Briana Santa Ana finally got Webb off serve with a kill, and the Lady Miners went into Game 4 up 2-1 in the match after Ignacio junior Ellie Seibel clipped the antenna with an attack.
A Forsythe ace then sparked an undaunted 5-1 reply, and IHS held the upper hand until a Gundelfinger ace knotted the score at 16. But consecutive Seibel aces during an ensuing 4-0 burst forced Rogers to call time, likely knowing the Cats had just shown the heart to take the tilt the distance.
“Any coach that looks at our team … we’re throwing out serves from all different angles, and that’s what’s important – keeping the opponent guessing,” said Cano. “The girls … their focus to keep those tough serves in and keep aggressive is amazing!”
Up next the Cats travel to No. 10 ranked [CHSAANow.com Class 1A poll, 10/13] Norwood tomorrow for an 11 a.m. start, and the regular season ends Oct. 21 at Pagosa Springs (currently ‘Receiving Votes’ in the 3A poll). Results from IHS’ trip on the Oct. 16 to Dolores were unavailable at press time.
“Just believing … having the confidence within themselves to bring the team together,” was Cano’s take on what got the Cats the win, and what will carry them further. “I’ve got to give the credit to them for believing that this … is paying off.”