Demons seniors fought through adversity to reach first state tournament
Talent was never something the Glenwood Springs Demons’ girls volleyball team lacked in the last three years; that was abundantly clear each time the Demons took the floor. But the results never seemed to be there in the last few years, at least until this season.
Following three coaching changes in three seasons, the Demons finally found some stability at the top with first-year head coach Kehau Rust, and now a group of seven Glenwood seniors that has been through the ringer the last few years is finally getting a chance to show the rest of the state in 4A just what they’re all about.
Starting Saturday morning at Thomas Jefferson High School, the Demons enter the 4A state regional playoff bracket as the No. 14 seed coming off of a season where they finished 19-4 (10-2 4A Western Slope League), narrowly losing the league championship on a series of tiebreakers.
It’s been undoubtedly tough the last few years for this current group of seniors in Mary Fuller, Maddie Bolitho, Cheyenne McLulland, Saylor Warren, Kassidi Johnson, Maya Erickson and Tye Wedhorn, but Rust seems to have found the secret to unlocking this group’s potential, and it’s paid off in a big way with a tremendous regular season and now a chance to make a deep run in the state tournament.
“It feels amazing,” Johnson said following a Tuesday evening practice inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium. “We’ve all wanted this for so long, so now that it’s finally paying off and everybody wants it, it just feels so great because we’ve put in a ton of hard work.”
While the talent has been obvious the last few years, both Johnson and Fuller were quick to point out that it wasn’t so much the system on the court or the players in what specific positions that led to the success this year, it was more of the group that had been through so much finally came together as a group this fall, clicking under Rust’s guidance.
“The team chemistry is just a lot better this year,” Johnson said. “We’ve wanted it a lot more this season compared to years past, and we’ve worked together to get along and push towards one common goal. A lot of that has to do with this being our last year of volleyball for a lot of us, so knowing that this was our last shot really helped us focus.”
As Johnson pointed out the change in chemistry within the Glenwood group, Fuller was quick to praise the hiring of Rust, as well, who came in and completely changed the culture for the better.
“She just connects with us, and it helps a lot that she’s younger and has coached a lot of teams in our age group,” Fuller said. “Not only does she know how to handle us as teenage girls, but she knows how to push everyone’s buttons in the right way to get us going, so that’s a lot different from the last few years. We didn’t get that a lot last year, but we’ve answered well to that this year.”
The loose attitude to just play has helped a talented group relax on the court, and trusting their talent to take over on the court allowed the Demons to realize just how talented they are. Now, they’re looking to make a run to the Denver Coliseum from Nov. 10-11 for the 4A state tournament, but first they’ll need to get past No. 11 Thomas Jefferson and No. 26 Cheyenne Mountain on Saturday morning.
“We know both are really strong serving teams, so we’ll have to have our serve receiving on point,” Johnson said. “But our stats are neck-and-neck, so it should be two really good games for sure.”
Knowing this could be the last time they step onto the court as members of the Glenwood volleyball team has given this group of seniors added motivation this week, causing practices to be much more crisp and focused, which should do nothing but help come Saturday when they step onto the court for the actual matches. The Demons have knocked off some very talented teams this year, but this is a new stage for this entire group. Therefore, practice is that much more important this week to make sure they’re as prepared as they can be for the two matches in Denver.
“There’s definitely more intensity and focus in practice right now,” Fuller said. “Coach said that we need to practice like we want to win, so everyone is going hard in practice right now. We know that these next two games are going to be tough, so if we practice hard we know we’re going to play hard.”
No matter what happens on Saturday, though, this group of seniors can hold their heads high knowing that they fought through some serious adversity over the last few years to reach their goal of making the state tournament, allowing them to go out on a high note, highlighted by an impressive run through the 2017 season and putting the 4A Western Slope League on notice moving forward.
“Volleyball has been my passion for years, so it would mean the world to move on to next rounds and play in Denver,” Fuller said. “But what I’ll remember so much about this group is that we’ve been through so much together, gone through some ups and downs, so I feel like that’s very important for us. Something that I’ll remember is that we came through all of that as a team. Last year we were just six individuals on the court and now we’re a team, and that’s what means the most from this season.”
The Demons will square off with the Cheyenne Mountain Indians at noon before then taking on the Thomas Jefferson Spartans at 2 p.m., which will likely determine who heads to the 4A state tournament the following weekend at the Denver Coliseum.
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The Coal Ridge High School boys and girls basketball teams will both be home Tuesday night to open the Class 3A state basketball tournament.