Glenwood Springs feeds off crowd energy, sweeps rival Rifle in Homecoming match
In front of a raucous, packed Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium Tuesday night, the Glenwood Springs Demons volleyball team rolled to a thrilling sweep of the rival Rifle Bears on Homecoming, winning by scores of 25-13, 25-21 and 25-8.
Looking to build off of last week’s road win over Palisade that saw the Bulldogs have an active, large student section, the Demon volleyball team wanted just that. The students and the rest of the home fans answered the call, spurring on the Demons all night long.
Glenwood fed off the energy of the home crowd Tuesday night and jumped out to a big lead in the first set, never looking back on the night.
“We were trying to feed off of that big win at Palisade coming into this game, so we knew we needed to bring our energy every time,” said Kehau Rust, Glenwood’s head coach. “The girls were really excited to see the fan support. That was huge at Palisade. Palisade had a huge fan section, and our girls wanted that. I think the fans really helped the girls tonight.”
Coming onto the floor to start the rivalry matchup, both teams were raring to go, but it was the Demons who got out of the blocks quickly, riding the hot hand of junior Shanik Zambrano, who recorded three straight aces, helping the Demons race out to a quick 4-0 lead over the Bears.
“We’re a young team,” said Caitlin Brady, Rifle’s head coach. “They have a lot of heart and they want to fight, but coming out and getting into a serve-receive set like that, we have to have the mentality that if you have one mistake, you move on. Everything will be OK. Focus on making the next play. We didn’t do that early. What’s great about this group is that they do that, but it’s a mental battle. We’re just young, and that played into the start.”
The serving success continued for the Demons throughout the first set, which ended up being a sign of things to come in the match, as the Demons recorded an impressive nine first-set aces.
Holding a 6-3 lead after a kill from Rifle’s Maddie Wolf, Glenwood quickly stretched the lead to 8-3 thanks to a kill from Zambrano. A solo block by senior Ashley Emery and a combination block by Emery and junior Emily Nilsson made it a 15-5 game minutes later. Holding a double-digit lead, Glenwood sophomore Reese Goluba recorded two straight aces, making it a 19-7 game in favor of Glenwood, before a combination block a few points later by Rifle’s Kyla Gray and Breanna Seay pushed the Bears into double figures trailing 21-11. A kill from Glenwood’s Sara Wagner and a tip by Zambrano gave the Demons the 25-13 win in the first set, highlighted by the tremendous serving efficiency by the Demons.
In the second set, Rifle found its legs on the road, battling point-for-point with the host Demons at Glenwood Springs High School. Holding an 8-7 lead on the road in the second set, a few defensive errors by Rifle let the Demons back into the set, but Glenwood struggled with long volleys, leaving points on the board as the Bears and Demons found themselves tied at 15-15 midway through the set.
“I think the key for us was changing the atmosphere on the court,” Rust said. “We put some girls into the game that might not be the strongest or the most experienced, but they competed out there. Putting in Sage Allen was key for us. She’s been a key player for us and helps us flip the switch. When we don’t get down on ourselves, we can compete.”
That’s when Emery and Kayle Justice came up big for the Demons, recording a combination block against the Bears that sparked Glenwood down the stretch. A kill from Emery, a tip by Kaitlyn Johnson, and an ace by Baylee Johnson sandwiched an ace by Rifle’s Nikala Fitzsimmons, giving Glenwood a 24-21 lead late. A kill by Wagner from the left side of the court capped off the second-set win for the Demons, setting up the pivotal third set.
“We had some young girls out there in the second set, and rather than playing their game they were very timid, which led to some long volleys,” Rust said. “I think a lot of that is mentality. When you’re going to hit you’re going for a kill, not just to keep it in play. I think the girls found that mentality late in the set, but it needs to be there right away.”
In the third set, Glenwood came out fast — much like the first set — and never looked back taking a 14-2 lead thanks to a pair of aces by Nilsson, forcing a Rifle timeout. The Bears couldn’t find their second-set level of play, allowing Glenwood to run away with the third set as a pair of kills and an ace by Emery capped off the sweep in the Demons’ homecoming match.
“She [Ashley] is really finding her own as a player,” Rust said. “She’s starting to see how dynamic she can be. She’s not just a middle blocker. She can hit everything offensively.”
The win over Rifle pushes Glenwood’s record to 8-6 (4-3 4A Western Slope League) on the season. The Demons host Steamboat Springs Saturday at 1 p.m. The Sailors currently sit No. 1 in the 4A WSL standings.
“That’s going to be a huge game,” Rust said. “They know we’re going to be the underdog going into that game and that we have nothing to lose. Our girls need to leave everything on the court.”
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