Titans heat up race for league title
Post Independent Sports Editor
PEACH VALLEY — Coal Ridge High School’s volleyball team turned up the heat on the Class 3A Western Slope League on Saturday in more ways than one.
Britini Allen posted a match-high 14 kills in a balanced scoring attack for the ninth-ranked Titans, who kept themselves in the hunt for the league championship with a 25-19, 25-14, 25-12 victory over Olathe in an extremely hot Coal Ridge High gymnasium.
“Our focus is still on doing well enough to host a regional,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Black said. “But it is good to know that a league title isn’t completely out of the question.”
The Titans (13-1 overall, 6-1 league play), who lost to Gunnison during their league match last month, handed Olathe (11-3, 4-1) its only league loss so far. The Pirates, who went five sets in a nonleague loss to Gunnison earlier this year, will host the Cowboys on Oct. 19.
A win by the Pirates over Gunnison would potentially create a three-way tie atop the league standings. Should that happen, based on league rules, the league championship would be determined by the winner of the Western Slope League tournament, scheduled for Oct. 25 and 26 at Grand Junction Central High School.
And the Titans, knowing that and knowing what team they were facing on Saturday, grabbed the momentum from the start and kept building on it.
“We’re a really good team and we’re capable of the lot of things, but it’s a little surprising that the score was the way it was,” said outside hitter Alicia Hampton, who finished with seven kills against the Pirates. “Olathe is a really good team too, though, and just to be able to come out like that against them is awesome.”
Olathe went to Grand Valley later on Saturday, winning 25-23, 25-19, 25-20.
The gymnasium at Coal Ridge High School was extremely hot, with players needing hydration and gravitating toward the exits. School Athletic Director Mike Aragon said he didn’t know why the heat was so intense inside the gymnasium but, to help accommodate, had all the gym doors open and large fans sucking cooler air from outside into the gym.
Paige Ryan added seven kills and a pair of blocks, Maggie Bell had 37 assists, Leah Kanakaraj added 14 digs and Madison Lund chipped in four digs and a match-high three aces for Coal Ridge, whose long scoring runs kept the Pirates at bay throughout the match. Olathe senior middle hitter Tori Davis finished with 10 kills and six stuff blocks to pace the Pirates, with Kayley Archuleta and Audrey Stansberry each adding four kills to the Olathe cause.
Coal Ridge jumped to an early 7-3 lead on the opening set on an ace from Ryan and a long return by Olathe. The Pirates battled back and took a 14-13 lead on back-to-back kills from Davis, but a kill from Ryan on the ensuing serve sparked a 6-1 run that gave the Titans the lead for the remainder of the set.
The Titans opened the second with a slim advantage but, again, the Pirates came back. Kills from Katie Nelson and Stansberry gave Olathe a 13-12 cushion, but a kill on the next serve from Allen sparked a massive 13-1 run Coal Ridge used to close out the set.
And in the third set, the Titans got a run going much earlier. A kill from Jacklyn Collins, followed by an Olathe hitter error and a kill from Bailey Davis, snapped a 6-all tie and ignited a 17-3 run which began with nine unanswered points that essentially wrapped up the match.
“We didn’t let up,” Black said. “I think maybe they stayed the same or dropped off a little bit. I told the girls that we couldn’t assume that they were going to just roll over and die because they’re a good team. That’s why it was important for us to maintain, and we did.”
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As the heat of the summer gives way to cooler mornings, summer trail race opportunities are slowly coming to an end.