DENVER - Carrie Shultz didn't have much reason to smile Friday afternoon. By the time her Roaring Fork volleyball team wrapped up a five-set win over Eaton in the evening, the program's head coach couldn't stop grinning.
While the Rams need some help to extend their stay at the state volleyball tournament, they at least kept their semifinal hopes alive.
After looking flat in a three-set loss to No. 2 Platte Valley to open Class 3A pool play at the Denver Coliseum on Friday, Roaring Fork surged back to defeat Eaton in a tense match that went back and forth. If Eaton defeats Platte Valley in today's Pool II finale, the three teams would then square off in a tiebreaker for the pool's one semifinal berth.
"We put ourselves in the best position we can be in now," said Josie Horn, the Rams' junior libero. "We'll come back and watch Eaton and Platte Valley play tomorrow and hope Eaton beats Platte Valley."
Said Shultz with a smile: "We'll be Eaton fans in the morning."
Hattie Gianinetti blasted 20 kills and her twin sister, Megan, swatted 16 as Roaring Fork twice rallied from a set down to defeat the defending state champion Reds in five, 22-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 15-13.
"Right away, I think we figured out, 'Hey, we can play with them,'" Shultz said. "The girls played with heart. Any time we did have a little lull, we picked it back up. I couldn't be more proud of them."
The Rams, the state field's 11th seed, battled through eight tie counts to eke out the fifth-set win. From a 13-all score, Megan Gianinetti blasted a kill off the hands of Eaton blockers to make it 14-13. An errant shot by the Reds sealed the victory, triggering a joyous celebration.
Even Roaring Fork's 3A Western Slope League mate, Gunnison, shared in the occasion, lining up to slap hands with the Rams courtside as the Cowboys arrived to face Colorado Springs Christian in the day's final 3A match. Gunnison won in three (25-13, 25-17, 25-23).
"We're rooting for them and they've been rooting for us, until it comes down to if we play each other," Horn said. "We come from the same league and we're just excited that we're both here."
Taylor Adams finished with 41 assists and three blocks for Roaring Fork, which improved to 23-4 on the season. Madison Handy racked up 20 digs and Caitlin Kinney wound up with 18 digs and five blocks. Megan Gianinetti chipped in four blocks for the Rams, who hadn't won a match at the state tournament since at least 1990.
Said Shultz: "However it plays out, they played their hearts out."
No. 7 Eaton dipped to 19-7 with the defeat.
Rachel Moralez belted 11 kills and Teslin Holton eight as Platte Valley stormed past Roaring Fork, 25-18, 25-16, 25-20, in Friday's Pool II opener.
Abby Reinick had 26 assists and Kyra Mix eight blocks as, according to head coach Jared Rudiger, the Broncos (20-6) won their first state match since 2005.
"My kids were very focused and energized," Rudiger said of his second-seeded squad. "This was a big win for us."
Jazmin Montes finished with 23 digs for Platte Valley, which finished second behind Valley in the Patriot League during the regular season and is one of five Class 3A schools from that circuit to qualify for the 12-team state tournament. Eaton is also a Patriot League squad.