Demons dominate serve line, sweep rival Bears
Glenwood’s girls volleyball team put an early emphasis on serves and serve receives coming into the 2019 season.
On Tuesday night inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, the Demons dominated the serving line, rolling to a 3-0 sweep of the rival Rifle Bears, picking up their third straight win on the year.
Against Rifle, Glenwood recorded 16 aces as a team, which was 21 percent of the points needed to win three sets on the night.
“We take serve and serve receive practice very seriously,” Jason Obreque, Glenwood’s interim head coach, said after the win over Rifle. “We push the girls in practice to compete like they would in a game, and that’s done a lot with our serving. We’ve put a lot into it so far, and it’s really paid off.”
Right away in the first set against Rifle Tuesday night, the Demons took control from the serving line as sophomore Kenzie Winder recorded the first ace of the night for Glenwood, giving the Demons a 7-3 lead.
Rifle responded with a perfectly placed ace from junior Mackenzie Elizardo, but the Demons continued to control the set from the serving line as senior captain Shanik Zambrano recorded an ace and then followed up with a kill, stretching the Demons’ lead to 10-5 in the first set.
“They [Glenwood] are very successful at spot serving and placing the ball where they want it to go,” Caitlin Brady, Rifle’s head coach, said following the loss. “What we sometimes struggle with is communication in the back row, making sure each person is doing their job and we’re communicating loudly.”
Rifle rallied quickly, though, to make it 10-7 thanks to a well-timed tip from freshman Cora McMillen, while also getting an ace from junior Maddy Valencia.
Glenwood responded to Valencia’s ace with a 6-1 run as junior Kiah Larson recorded a kill and an ace, senior Kaitlyn Johnson came through with a block and a kill, and sophomore Charlotte Olszewski came through with a big kill, giving the Demons a 16-8 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Back-to-back aces from junior Reese Goluba and a kill from Zambrano closed out the 25-14 first-set win for Glenwood.
In the second set, Glenwood stormed out to a 5-0 lead as senior captain Emily Nilsson recorded three straight aces to open the set. Rifle showed a great amount of resiliency in the second set, battling back to tie the set at 6-6 as McMillen and junior Whitney Tornes combined for a combination block at the net to stop the Glenwood run. McMillen then recorded an ace of her own before sophomore CJ Hays placed a tipped ball over the net into space, knotting the set at 6-6.
“As far as our defense is going, we’re improving,” Brady said. “I think the girls are learning to read the offense and cover for each other and have each other’s backs; we saw that in the second set early,” Brady said. “Our defense was where it needs to be, but we just need to figure out our offensive attack.”
Glenwood didn’t blink, though, embarking on a 7-1 run to take a 13-7 lead as Nilsson and Zambrano combined for three kills, forcing a Rifle timeout.
Once again, Rifle showed heart, battling back to make it 13-10 out of the break, but the Demons proved to be too much to handle at the serving line and along the net in the second set, as Zambrano recorded three aces before Johnson closed out the set with back-to-back aces, giving the Demons the 25-15 win.
“Serves and serve receives can be a real weapon for us with how well we’re playing in those areas right now,” Obreque said. “If you can’t serve a ball over the net and receive it, you really can’t play this game, and you’re not going to win; that’s what we’re focusing on.”
Eyeing the three-set sweep, Glenwood came out in the final set determined on its home floor.
The Demons jumped out to a 10-5 lead, shaking off an early kill from Elizardo as Zambrano answered with a kill, while Nilsson and Larson tipped shots over the net for points, staking the Demons to the lead.
That’s when Olszewski took over for Glenwood, recording a kill and a block at the net, before tipping another shot over the net for a point, giving the Demons a 16-6 lead.
“She [Olszewski] really stepped up for us,” Obreque said. “She’s coming off of an injury, so she’s been a bit hesitant to jump off of one foot. She’s gotten a lot better and is getting higher on her jumps; her contacts are a lot better right now too. We’re very proud of her.”
After Olszewski’s quick display of dominance, it was all Glenwood as Johnson recorded two aces and Zambrano recorded three kills, giving the Demons a 25-8 win and the rivalry-match sweep.
The win sees Glenwood improve to 6-2 (2-0 in 4A WSL) on the season. The Demons enter a tough part of their schedule as Glenwood hosts four straight games, including Steamboat Springs Saturday and Eagle Valley Tuesday, Sept. 24, as well as Montrose Sept. 28 and Palisade Oct. 3.
Zambrano led the Demons with 10 digs, 10 kills and four aces, while Nilsson dished out 25 assists, adding five digs, four aces, five blocks, and three kills in the win. Olszewski chipped in with five kills and three blocks, while Johnson added five digs, three aces, two kills and two blocks. Goluba closed out the night with 12 digs and three aces.
“From here on out, it’s a mental game for us,” Obreque said. “We have a couple of big games coming up, so it’s about mental toughness more than physical toughness. We know the girls can do the job, and perform at a high level; it will just be up to how they respond in those pressure situations coming up.”
The loss drops Rifle to 3-8 (0-2 in 4A WSL) on the year. The Bears travel to Palisade Thursday before returning home Saturday for a match with the Basalt Longhorns.
Valencia led the Bears with three kills, while junior Katelyn Mentink led the Bears with six digs. Junior Karely Salazar added seven assists for Rifle.
“Our morale is still high, and we believe we can win games and still compete,” Brady said. “As the coach, I need to figure out how to find the best lineup for our offensive game. We know who our best passers are, but now we need to find that key offensive piece that can not only set blocks defensively, but can put balls on the floor offensively.”
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