Grand Valley tests mettle of Moffat County volleyball
The first 10 minutes and the last half-hour of Thursday night was exactly how Moffat County High School coach Erin Knez wants her varsity volleyball team to play. What happened in between — well, there’s always room for improvement.
MCHS hosted Grand Valley High School, taking a 3-0 defeat in three sets that could not have been more varied.
Both Western Slope League teams came out swinging for the opening set, staying neck and neck with the scores to start, coming their closest when they were tied at 9. Players didn’t panic as the Cards started to push past a little, but timeouts at 14-9 and 21-9 became slightly more frantic as the Parachute opponents ultimately put up 16 unanswered points to win it, 25-9.
Lady Bulldogs looked to make up for it in the second set, which went quickly as the confident Cardinals stumped the Moffat County defense, 25-10.
That, however, was the turning point, with the Dogs making a rapid recovery in the third set, led off by a succession of successful serves by Emma Samuelson to put them ahead, 5-1, at the start.
Bulldogs dug deep and came up with plenty of points as Mattie Jo Duzik, Morgan Nelson and Bailey Lawton tightened up at the net on spikes and blocks to cause the Cardinals consternation.
“Our coverage really saved us, they were tipping a lot on us,” said junior Josie Timmer. “We played smarter, got out of our heads and decided we were going to play.”
MCHS couldn’t quite close it out, falling 25-22, but the renewed energy later in the night was what Knez wants from players in every game.
“After the first two sets, I was extremely frustrated and wasn’t sure how to help them out because we were creating our own mess,” she said. “They went out with a much better attitude that third set, better team mentality. “I’m extremely pleased we were able to turn it around. That says a lot not only in their skill level but their maturity as well.”
Grand Valley coach David Walck said the third set took him somewhat by surprise, though some varsity injuries sidelining players meant the rotation was different than his usual roster.
“Moffat tends to be a scrappy team, an emotional team, so we knew we needed to prepare for that,” he said. “At times it was good, at times not good, and you could tell there were some kids in new positions, but we did some good stuff.”
Walck added that Bailey Rowe claimed 19 kills for the night and Kylyn Rigsby added 29 assists in the win that improved the group to 7-3 overall.
The Cardinals — 2-0 in the 3A Western Slope League — travel to Aspen Saturday, the same day Moffat County will be down the road in Basalt, playing a doubleheader.
Now 3-7 altogether and 0-4 in the conference, Knez said she anticipates a more even game than the Lady Dogs have had with Roaring Fork, Coal Ridge, Cedaredge or Grand Valley, and the games with the 2-5 Longhorns could be twice as nice.
“Basalt will test us, mentally and physically,” she said. “If we win the first one, we’ll be pumped and ready for the second game, and if we lose the first game it’ll test their mental toughness to come back and rally, which we need to learn and get better at. Two games for each team in one day is kind of a lot, but we need to be pushed.”
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After losing the 3A Western Slope League race in a tough, five-set loss to Basalt on April 15, the Coal Ridge High volleyball team finds its playoff fate partly out of its own hands.