Each dig breaks new ground | PostIndependent.com

Each dig breaks new ground

Post Independent/Chelsey J. Cox

PEACH VALLEY ” They are the first ones to play in the shiny, new gym.

They are the first ones to put on the royal blue jerseys.

Every ace they serve and every kill they hit will go into the record books because no one has done it before. They are the first-ever Coal Ridge High School varsity volleyball team.

Two sophomores and eight freshman fill up the roster spots on the Titan squad, and as they march onto the court, most of the opponents they face have lineups dominated by upperclassmen.

“It is a lot of fun, but it is a lot of pressure to be the first team,” said freshman middle blocker Chloe Nelson. “We just try to be us. We are the varsity team, and we are taking this and making it our own.”

The Titans lack experience and are usually out-sized, but 14 games into their first season, they are starting to compete.

“We have a great group of kids. This season has been really good,” said Coal Ridge head coach Denise Greene. “It has been a good experience to build on because we are so young, and we are going against seniors all the time.”

The Titans are 0-7 in the Western Slope 2A league and 1-13 overall. Their lone victory came on Sept. 8 against the Glenwood Springs junior varsity team. The only time they faced a challenger who was closer in age and experience level, it resulted in a three-game sweep (25-21, 25-16, 25-14) over the Demons. Coal Ridge used that win and other good games to fuel their desire to improve.

“There have been times when we have been really competitive, and that is really exciting and it makes them want to play even harder,” Greene said.

The Titans may not have come up with victories in the other 13 matches, but it doesn’t mean they came out empty handed.

“With us being freshmen, it is a really good experience. It is challenging, but it is a good learning experience,” Nelson said. “They (other teams) don’t know it, but they are teaching us a lot when they kick our butts.”

Greene is the former head coach for Glenwood who took the Demons to the state tournament the last two years before deciding to take the coaching position at Coal Ridge. She is adjusting to her new setting.

“It is different, but the enthusiasm is there, and the girls are excited to play,” she said. “Normally you don’t get to spend four years with the same group of kids, so I think it is a good change.”

Lacking upperclassmen who normally take charge on the court as leaders, Greene said that some of the younger players have been forced to step up.

“The team chose Chloe Nelson and Callie Schlegel as captains, and they are good leaders,” Greene said. “Chloe is a pretty strong player. She is very vocal and has done a good job with that. Callie is a little quieter, but see leads by example.”

Coal Ridge has two games left this season, one at Paonia (9-5) on Thursday and the last at Soroco on Oct. 22. They may not win any more games this season, but winning isn’t the most important thing to the team right now.

“We aren’t worried about losing,” Nelson said. “When you are new and at the bottom, the only place you can go is up.”

The Titans plan to use the upcoming offseason to prepare for 2006, when they will jump from 2A to 3A. There, Hotchkiss, Basalt and Roaring Fork will be three of the seven league rivals the Titans will battle. Coal Ridge will play at the 3A level for two years and then enrollment numbers will determine if it will stay there or be bumped up to 4A.

With most of the first season under their belts, the Titans can start to look ahead. Next season they will have juniors. In 2007, the eight freshmen will have transformed into seniors and will have the experience of playing side-by-side for four straight years.

“When those girls get out on the floor in four years, they will have experience and will have gone through all of this before,” Greene said. “Eventually we want to be contenders for league titles, but to start we just want to be successful and be excited about the opportunity that we have.”

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