Demons top rival Bears in five-set thriller
There’s nothing like fierce rivalry going down to the wire, especially in high school athletics.
For fans and students that showed up to Thursday’s Rifle-Glenwood Springs girls volleyball match, they watched a back-and-forth battle between two conference rivals that ended in a Demons five-set win, 23-25, 26-24, 25-16, 20-25, 15-10.
Much like their previous three matches, the Demons struggled out of the gate early against the Bears, who looked to beat Glenwood Springs for the second straight year.
After racing out to a 6-0 lead, the Bears held a 13-6 lead before the Demons mounted a comeback, tying the game at 20-20 thanks to seniors Chally Korn and Makena Warren coming up with huge kills. Despite finding their footing offensively, the Demons were unable to complete the comeback in the first set, dropping it to the Bears, 23-25.
Rifle’s junior outside hitter, Tara Ruggles, matched the big hitters of the Demons play for play, leading the Bears throughout the night offensively.
“She [Tara] was on tonight,” Rifle head coach Kirsten Noska said. “She’s had a couple games where she’s been struggling a little bit, but she really found herself tonight, and our team definitely needed that tonight.”
Set two went much the same way that set one did for both teams with Korn and Warren leading the charge once again.
Midway through the set, Rifle held a 16-12 lead, but Glenwood Springs head coach Sarah Ryan sensed it was time to stop the Bears momentum by calling a key timeout.
Out of the break, the Demons roared back to take a 21-20 lead on a big kill at the net by sophomore Tye Wedhorn — who would come up big later in the match. All tied at 24-24, Demons senior Megan Mazzotta placed the ball perfectly over the net into the middle of the Bears defense for the go-ahead point, and Warren finished off the set win with another booming kill to tie the match at 1-1.
“Makena was everywhere, which was awesome,” Ryan said. “She’s very consistent. She’s in the right place at the right time and she’s so good at reading the ball, reading the court and knowing where to put the ball. She’s just an all-around great volleyball player.”
Seemingly in a groove following the comeback win in set two, the Demons rolled to a 25-16 set three win thanks to Harlee Gonzales, Blake Fergen and Warren. Midway through the set, the Demons held an 18-10 lead before the Bears mounted a comeback of their own, getting as close as 18-14, but kills from Warren and Gonzales and a big block at the net by Fergen sealed the nine-point set three win.
Not going down without a fight, the Bears matched the Demons point for point in set four thanks to Ruggles, Megan Doll and Reese Hoffmeister, who strategically placed the ball all over the court, forcing the Demons defense to continuously move, which opened them up for big kills from the Bears.
Leading 19-13 in a crucial stretch of set four, Ruggles came up with a huge point for the Bears by placing the ball in perfect position in between a host of Demons defenders.
At 24-20, it looked as if Warren would come up with another huge kill for the Demons, but her attempt sailed wide, giving the Bears a much-needed 25-20 victory to force a fifth set.
Defensively in the fourth set, both teams were outstanding. Numerous times in the set the teams exchanged lengthy volleys with impressive digs from Rifle’s Ksan Brueckmann, Jordan Dorr and Bryce Ettles, and Glenwood’s Megan Uren, Mazzotta and Kenzi Johnson.
However, because of the lengthy volleys and booming spikes from the Demons hitters, the long set seemingly took a lot out of the Bears’ tank heading into the fifth and final set.
In the deciding set, the Bears got within three, but an ace from Warren, a big block at the net by Wedhorn and an impressive kill at the net by Fergen sealed the five-set win for the Demons, who avenged last years loss to the rival Bears.
“Tye just comes out of nowhere and comes up with a big play,” Ryan said. “She’s the sweetest girl on the team, and when she comes up with a big play it’s fun to see how the team reacts.”
With the win, the Demons continue to make a habit of getting out of the gates slowly before storming back to win the match in the end.
“This is the first team I’ve had in a long time that just never quits and gets down on themselves,” Ryan said. “They just keep fighting and fighting. They need to learn that they have to fight for those first five [points] and then continue it from there, instead of being down five [points] and have to battle back from that.”
Coaching in her first Rifle-Glenwood Springs match, Noska was not only impressed with the atmosphere inside Spencer-Chavez Memorial Gymnasium, Thursday, but she was impressed with how her team handled adversity throughout the five-set loss.
“It was quite an experience, especially with the crowd,” Noska said. “This week we really focused on focusing in on the game and nothing else. This is the best I’ve seen these girls play since I’ve been here. They responded phenomenally, and I think a lot of that had to do with our practice environment this week.
In the win, Warren led all Demons with 22 digs, 17 kills and four aces. Mazzotta and Uren added 22 and 20 digs respectively, while Johnson lead all Demons with 36 assists. Wedhorn and Korn tied with 10 kills.
For Rifle, Ruggles finished with nine kills and 26 digs. Bruekmann led all Bears with 34 digs and Ettles added 21 assists.
With the win, Glenwood Springs improves to 4-3, while Rifle falls to 1-5.
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Colorado Mountain College’s men’s and women’s cross country teams both finished higher than their rankings coming in at the Nov. 14 National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division 1 Cross Country 2020 Championships.