Titans rebound, roll past Bears on Senior Night
Two nights after a frustrating home loss to the visiting Montrose Indians, the Coal Ridge Titans’ girls volleyball team bounced back in a big way Thursday night following its first loss, sweeping the visiting Rifle Bears in a nonconference matchup at Coal Ridge High School on an emotional Senior Night by scores of 25-7, 25-15 and 25-6.
While saying goodbye to an accomplished senior class of Santana Martinez, Emily Wright, Paige Harlow, Cassie Greene, Jessica Feese and Cheyanne Williams, the communities of New Castle, Silt and Rifle came through in a big way financially on a night where a benefit dinner was held to raise funds for the Hernandez family, which was involved in a tragic accident in September that saw three members of the family die after hitting a bear on I-70. Through the dinner, the communities raised an astounding $8,383 on the night.
With emotions high, the Titans needed to flip the switch quickly to competition mode. After the loss Tuesday night to the Indians, that was the easy part for Coal Ridge as the Titans raced out to a 10-1 lead thanks to a tip from Martinez, an ace from junior Kenzie Crawford and kills from Harlow and Greene, forcing a quick Rifle timeout.
“Since Tuesday’s loss, we were pretty angry with ourselves over the loss,” Martinez said. “We wanted to come back strong. We heard some smack talk from Rifle building up to today, so we wanted to come out and make a statement that we’re still a great team and that we want to host regionals. We just really wanted to leave a message for other teams. We had been slacking off for a few games with our play, so it was important to come out strong tonight. It was a good game to have for senior night.”
As the Titans cruised early offensively, the Bears struggled to find their footing before a tip at the net from junior Rose Mastrud and an ace from senior Eve Miller got the Bears going, pulling to 11-4.
Mastrud added a second kill, but the Titans regrouped quickly as junior Alexis Wiescamp came up with a big block at the net, sparking a 7-2 run for the Titans.
“Tuesday night was a wake-up call for us,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Aimee Gerber said. “We can’t let up, we have to start from the beginning, and we’re not always the best starters. So tonight we made that our goal to start fast with the first five points immediately. They did that, plus the next five. The girls really took that loss hard on Tuesday, and they let it motivate them. They just decided that we had to play at our level no matter what.”
Holding a 20-6 lead, Wright, Harlow, Greene and Crawford closed out the set for the Titans as Wright and Crawford came through with two aces each, while Harlow and Greene capped off the first-set win with booming kills, firing up the home crowd in the final regular season home game of the season.
Following the impressive first-set win, the Titans looked to ride the wave of momentum generated in set one, but the Bears had other ideas.
As the Titans struggled with serving errors and net discipline, the Bears raced out to an early 5-2 lead, forcing the Titans to take a timeout to settle things down. Following the break, Wiescamp and Rifle senior Alexis Dormio traded kills, giving the Bears a 6-5 lead. Following Dormio’s kill, the Titans went on a 13-3 run as Wright and Feese recorded aces, while Harlow continued to dominate at the net with two thunderous spikes, igniting the home crowd.
Back-to-back aces from Martinez capped off the 13-3 run, giving the Titans an 18-9 lead, setting up a quick finish as freshman Taylor Wiescamp came through with a tip for the Titans, while Alexis Wiescamp and Crawford added kills to cap off the 25-15 second set win for the Titans.
In the final set, the Titans again raced out to a seemingly insurmountable early lead, taking a 9-2 lead on a combination block from Taylor Wiescamp and Greene before the standout freshman simply took over the third and final set, recording two kills and three blocks to pace the Titan attack.
Rifle’s Shaelynn Smith tried to regroup the Bears with a kill to make it 16-4 Titans, but Wiescamp and Harlow were simply too much in the middle for the Bears to handle as Harlow’s booming kill capped off the 25-6 win, ending senior night in style.
With the win over Rifle, the Coal Ridge Titans, who have already locked up the 3A Western Slope League championship, improve to an astounding 16-1 (8-0 3A WSL) on the season. Looking to cap off the regular season undefeated in league play, the Titans will travel to Gunnison Saturday afternoon for a matchup with the Cowboys.
“The girls know that everything we’re doing now is for our postseason ranking,” Gerber said. “We’re trying to push through every game without looking ahead, but ultimately what we’re doing is affecting where we end up in the rankings. We’re fighting to keep regionals on our home court.”
With the loss to Coal Ridge, the Rifle Bears fall to 4-15 (1-9 4A WSL) on the season. The Bears — with three games left in the regular season — will take on Eagle Valley Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m.