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Titans fall to Olathe in district finals

Jeff Caspersen Post Independent Staff Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GRAND JUNCTION – Denise Greene hopes her younger players remember the feeling. After all, the agony of defeat can go a long way in terms of motivation for future success. And agony is what Greene’s Coal Ridge volleyball team felt in Saturday’s Class 3A District 2 Tournament final against Olathe. Despite being within two points of victory in the fourth game, the Titans couldn’t hang on against the Pirates in a five-game thriller (25-19, 21-25, 27-29, 26-24, 15-11) at Grand Junction Central High School. “I just said to all of my players that all of the younger ones need to remember this feeling – getting the loss instead of the win,” said a hoarse-voiced Greene. “Then they can work hard in the offseason, come back and win instead.” Still, Greene took solace in fielding a much-improved Titans team in 2007. After winning just two Class 3A Western Slope League matches last season, Coal Ridge went 11-3 in league and finished second to Basalt in regular-season play. The Titans, who wrap the year 18-6 overall, needed the win in Saturday’s final to advance to regionals. Olathe is going instead. It was a barnburner of a match between the two schools, with four of the five games decided by five points or less. Long volleys and incredible defense ruled the day. The third game was the most glaring example. The Titans and Pirates played to 16 tie counts before Coal Ridge eventually put it away with a pair of critical kills from Callie Schlegel. Schlegel, one of the Titans’ two seniors along with Mini Kanakaraj, finished with 18 kills in the finale, second only to teammate Chloe Nelson, who had 25. Jessica Needham added seven kills for the Titans, and Sierra Grove ended the match with 48 assists. But Olathe’s defense frustrated the Coal Ridge net attack just enough to pull out the win, with sprawling digs and hustle hits saving many a kill. “They refused to give up,” Pirates coach Dan Rosentreter said of his players, who in Friday pool play lost to Coal Ridge in three games. Kelly Romero and Kanakaraj matched the Pirates’ defensive hustle with many big digs between them on Coal Ridge’s side of the net. Down 2-1 after three, Olathe never quit. They wriggled free of a 23-20 fourth-game deficit to win that 26-24 and then used the momentum to finish off the Titans in the do-or-die fifth. “In game four, Coal Ridge could have won easily and taken it to the finish,” Rosentreter said. “Something sparked and they pushed through.”

Gunnison gave Coal Ridge a run for its money in the semifinal, making the Titans sweat through four close games (25-19, 22-25, 25-17, 25-21). After splitting the first two, Coal Ridge rallied behind the net attack of Nelson, Schlegel and Needham. Schlegel slapped four kills and a block in the fourth game, while Nelson had three down the stretch to help put the match away in four. Needham was huge at the net and had two big kills in the third-game victory. On Friday, Coal Ridge rolled through pool play with a 3-0 record, defeating Roaring Fork (25-23, 25-17, 25-12), Aspen (25-22, 25-17, 25-19) and Olathe (25-19, 25-23, 25-23).

Olathe stunned Basalt in the semifinals, beating the Class 3A Western Slope League champs in four games (26-24, 25-19, 16-25, 25-13). Luckily for the Longhorns, they were the only ones in the tournament field that could afford a loss thanks to the free pass to regionals that accompanies the league title. Basalt had no answer for a scrappy Olathe defense that consistently dug out potential kill hits and wore down its top-seeded opponent. “(The Pirates) were playing with heart, with fire,” Basalt coach Clay Dahlman said. “It was heartbreaking. We did have the regional bye, but the girls came out here with every intent of winning.” At 21-2 overall, winning is something the Longhorns have done plenty of in 2007, and Dahlman feels the defeat will only light that much more of a fire under their bellies. “The girls will go into practice 110 percent to work on fixing the problems,” he said. “They want to prove they’re one of the best teams in the state when we’re firing on all cylinders.” Dayne Toney did finish with 13 kills for the Longhorns. Katheryne Fitzpatrick added seven, and Shelby Holmes had five. Kehau Vegas dished out 23 assists. The Longhorns swept their way to the semifinals with a perfect 3-0 run through pool play on Friday. Basalt swept away Hotchkiss (25-18, 25-15, 25-18), Cedaredge (25-9, 25-14, 25-15) and Gunnison (25-16, 25-18, 25-18).


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