Rifle volleyball continues rebuild with veteran talent
Head Coach: Caitlin Brady, second year
Last Season: 1-22, 0-12 in 4A Western Slope League
Key Returners: Breanna Seay, Sr.; Maddy Valencia, Jr.; Mackenzie Elizardo, Jr.; Sage Allen, So.; Katelyn Mentink, Jr.
Players to Watch: Whitney Tornes, Jr.; Karely Salazar, Jr.
Last season, which happened to be the first year under new head coach Caitlin Brady, was one to forget for the Rifle volleyball program.
They won just one game and seven sets, but the Bears had to go through the tough times and absorb the bumps and bruises that came with the 2018 season to set up future success.
Back with another full year of varsity experience are juniors Maddy Valencia, Mackenzie Elizardo, and Katelyn Mentick, as well as senior Breanna Seay and sophomore Sage Allen, giving Brady an experienced number of starters to work with.
Brady is hoping this core group of varsity athletes sets the tone for program moving forward.
“I expect this group to really stand out as far as what our program is going to be,” Brady said. “I’ve had all these juniors since they were freshman, some even prior to that. Their skills have been evolving, and they’re coming out ready to prove themselves as a group, even if we’re going to be young. Teams are going to notice our skill and notice these girls and how close they are as a group.”
While the group can continue to grow and improve on the court, they’ll be judged by the standard wins-and-losses mark over the next two seasons, which could be a bit early and slightly unfair to them as Brady had to strip the program down to its bare bones to start the proper rebuild. That said, Rifle isn’t shying away from the challenge ahead.
“We’re always striving for that .500 mark,” Brady said. “We haven’t reached that mark since 1999. … These girls did really well in the summer with this young group, so I think we’re going to do really well once the season starts.”
The Bears still find themselves in the tough 4A Western Slope League, but thanks to graduation hitting the top programs hard in the league, the playing surface appears to be much more even and competitive than in years past. That should benefit the Bears right away as Rifle’s first home game is Thursday against Grand Valley in the CHSAA Foundation Game.
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