Demons fall to Wildcats in CHSAA charity game
Opening up the 2018 season inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium Friday night against the visiting Fruita Monument Wildcats in the Colorado High School Activities Association charity match, the Glenwood Springs Demons — breaking in all but one new starter — dropped three straight sets by scores of 25-11, 25-20 and 25-20, falling to the Wildcats in a match that was tightly-contested throughout.
With just one starter returning from the last year’s 4A state playoff team, the Demons found themselves up against a veteran Fruita squad that returned six seniors and three juniors from last season’s team that reached the 5A state tournament in Denver. Overmatched in terms of experience, the Demons got off to a slow start Friday night, trailing 7-3 early off of an ace by Fruita senior Campbell Atkins.
“I think it was first-game jitters,” said Kehau Rust, Glenwood’s head volleyball coach. “We have just one returning starter, and I think that the other girls realized this wasn’t a JV game. They had to step up, and playing Fruita shows that. We learned tonight that this is the level you need to be at, and if you’re not there, it’s going to be tough.”
Trailing early in the first set in front of a packed house, the Demons found their footing as senior Baylee Johnson recorded a kill, and senior Sarah Wagner recorded a serving ace, making it a 9-7 game. Fruita answered back with a quick 7-0 run to make it a 16-7 game, capped by a kill from sophomore Kendra Abbott, and a block from senior Gabrielle Rigsby, taking the wind out of the Demons’ sails.
Mired in a 21-9 hole, Glenwood received a kill from Kaitlyn Johnson, pushing the Demons into double digits, before a block by senior Ashley Emery made it a 22-11 game.
A kill from Fruita senior Madeline Price capped off the 25-11 first-set win.
“I’d rather play a very good opponent like Fruita, rather than a weak opponent any day,” said Rust. “It really shows you where you are as a team, and what you need to work on skill-wise.”
Following the first-set loss, the Demons regrouped before the second set and came out strong, battling Fruita to a 7-7 stalemate, thanks to a kill from Baylee Johnson, and an ace from senior Logan Nieslanik. Glenwood had opportunities to take the lead and run with it, but errors cost the Demons, keeping the door open for the Wildcats early in the set.
Tied at 7-7, Fruita pulled away for a 14-8 lead, backed by kills from Rigsby and junior Rachel Coffey. Fruita later made it a 19-9 game off of a kill from senior Emma Hough, but the Demons didn’t go away.
Down by 10 points late in the set, Glenwood dug in and battled all the way back to make it a 23-18 game, as a tip at the net by Baylee Johnson, and a combo block by Emery and senior Emily Nilsson sparked the Demons.
A huge dig for a point by senior Ally Rosenmerkel off of a serve by Fruita made it 24-20, but a serving error on Glenwood gave the Wildcats the 25-20 win.
Trailing 2-0 in sets, the Demons needed an answer on the scoreboard. This time, they responded in a big way in the third set, nearly stealing a win from the Wildcats.
Glenwood held a 7-5 lead early in the third set thanks to an ace from Glenwood junior Shanik Zambrano, but the Wildcats relied on experience down the stretch, staying neck-and-neck with the Demons as the set had ties of 12-12, 18-18, and 20-20.
“Who was on the court in the final set mattered,” Rust said. “I talked to Baylee and Shanik before that third set and told them someone had to step up as the middle, and Baylee took it upon herself despite not training there all summer. She did a great job sealing the block against Fruita’s middle hitters to stop their attack. I also think the big thing in that third set was the job Brooke Hunter did defensively. She knows that the libero job is up for grabs come the start of the regular season, and she stepped up defensively on the back line tonight.”
A kill by Baylee Johnson and an ace by Nieslanik tied the game at 20-20, but the Demon run ended there, as the Wildcats took over in the set’s final five points, winning on an ace by senior Landri Hansen, sweeping the Demons.
Glenwood returns to action Aug. 30 in the Demon Invitational, as the Demons will face off with the Grand Valley Cardinals at 5 p.m.