Rifle volleyball knocks off Coal Ridge in four sets

The Rifle High volleyball team gathers to celebrate following a point against Coal Ridge on Thursday night.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The energy ran high in Rifle High gymnasium Thursday night as the Bears clawed their way to a 3-1 victory over the Coal Ridge Titans. After a tumultuous first set that saw the Titans emerge victorious 25-23, the Bears found their rhythm, marking the beginning of a comeback that they wouldn’t let go of for the rest of the match.

The initial loss only fueled the fire for the Bears, who were unyielding in their pursuit of victory. The competition wasn’t just between the talented players on the court but extended to the student sections, each echoing the intensity and passion unfolding before them.

As the second set commenced, it was evident that the Bears were not prepared to let another slip through their fingers. With each team staying within a couple of points of each other, it wasn’t until Rifle senior Crystal Santana delivered two big points that changed the momentum, closing the second set at 25-18 in favor of the Bears.

“These girls are here to play,” Aguirre said. “We are becoming a very smart team. These girls are working really hard and are really starting to click. We just need to be consistent and continue to play our game.”

The third set saw Rifle dominating the court. Despite the valiant efforts of Coal Ridge’s Brilee Jensen and her teammates to mount a comeback, the Bears’ lead, peaking at 21-11, proved insurmountable, ending the third set at 25-16.

Errors plagued the Titans in the fourth set, and the Bears capitalized on each opportunity. Another incredible rally saw Rifle take the point, propelling them to an 11-8 lead, a momentum they maintained to secure a 25-17 victory in the set. Santana was instrumental in putting the game away.

“It’s always great to be able to walk away with this win,” Santana said. “It is always a really exciting game and it’s great to beat rivals.”

Santana’s performance was highlighted by 18 kills and one block. Junior Rachel Street was a formidable presence with three blocks. Senior Madelyn Berglund showcased her defensive prowess with 49 digs, while Brooke Allen contributed 11 kills and 22 digs. Orchestrating the offense, senior captain Kristyn Mentink delivered 43 assists.

After starting the season 4-0, the Bears dropped four games in a row before adding to the win column against Basalt on Tuesday. Now on a two game win streak, the team’s mentally has shifted.

“I think we weren’t as focused as we should have been but we are starting to just worry about the game in front of us,” Santana said. “We have our sights set on the playoffs but we know the work that is going to come with that.”

The victory over the Titans marks the Bears’ second consecutive win after a four-game losing streak, elevating their season record to 6-4 and injecting a renewed sense of confidence and determination into the team.

The Titans, now standing at 4-8, will look to rebound as they host the Basalt Longhorns on Tuesday. 

The Bears set their sights on their next challenge, as they now prepare to take on the Grand Junction Tigers next Friday.

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