Titans sweep Bears on Rifle’s Senior Night
Thursday’s volleyball match at Rifle High School was delayed for about 45 minutes as family, friends and general supporters celebrated the achievements of the eight senior Rifle varsity players on the Bears’ Senior Night as the large class got ready to play its final game inside of its home gymnasium.
With emotions running high for the group of nine, the Coal Ridge Titans quietly got ready to bounce back from Tuesday’s troubling loss on the road at Montrose, calling it their “redemption game,” according to Coal Ridge Head Coach Aimee Gerber.
Redeem themselves they did as the Titans dispatched the Bears on Senior Night in straight sets by scores of 25-13, 25-15 and 25-11 to get back in the win column before their own Senior Night on Saturday in New Castle. Doing so against an emotional Rifle team without their senior leader in Nicole Mooney proved to be a rallying cry for the Titans on this night.
“We knew that we did not play Tuesday night as a team, or as individuals,” Gerber said. “The girls were pretty focused realizing they needed to rebound and play well tonight for confidence reasons as well. Being without Nicole … that’s a hit [to this team], but there’s a lot of girls on the team, so we shouldn’t rely on just one girl. So they were excited to play and make up for their mistakes.”
Without Mooney once again, the Titans quickly jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first set behind aces from junior Cheyanne Williams and junior Santana Martinez, along with kills from senior Kaitlyn Harlow and senior Dana Kotz as the Bears tried to right themselves and shake off the emotions of the night in their home gym.
Leading 12-2, Coal Ridge seemed to take their foot off the gas, which happened to coincide with the Bears finding their footing to battle back to within 14-10 as kills by senior Eve Miller and junior Shalynn Smith, as well as two aces from senior Sydney Wells got the home crowd into it.
Holding just a four-point lead following a strong start, the Titans seemingly took control quickly as sophomore Alexa Weiscamp came up with three big kills down the stretch to stretch the Coal Ridge lead to 20-11 before an ace from Martinez and a long volley from Rifle handed the Titans the first-set win on the road.
Looking to keep their good fortunes going in the second set, Coal Ridge again got out to a solid lead as kills from Kotz and sophomore Kara Morgan gave the Titans an early 6-2 lead.
From there the second set went back and forth as both teams struggled with serving and receiving before an ace from Kaitlyn Harlow opened things up for Coal Ridge at 17-10.
“They [Morgan and Weiscamp] have really stepped up for us,” Gerber said. “They realized with Nicole out that we’re missing 15-20 kills a game and that somebody needs to fill that role, but I told them I don’t expect them to do everything, but they really played well for us tonight.”
Following the ace by Harlow and some big offensive plays by Morgan and Weiscamp things started to click for the Titans offensively as junior Paige Harlow came up with two big kills at the net before Rifle senior Samantha Hinkle answered with a kill of her own to make it 21-15 Titans following a great defensive set by the Bears.
Hinkle then came up with another big play a few moments later with a resounding block at the net, but Morgan was able to respond quickly with a booming kill to put the Titans at match point.
Kaitlyn Harlow then picked up the match point with a big kill at the net to give the Titans a 2-0 lead heading into the third — and ultimately final — set of the night.
Knowing that this was their last game in their home gymnasium, the senior Bears got off to a quick start and pushed to a 10-10 tie midway through the final set before Rifle seemed to slip up on a kill from Weiscamp, which turned the tides quickly in favor of the Titans, who went on a 14-1 run to seal the three-set win over the Bears.
“I’m really proud of everything this senior class did for us these last two years since I took over,” Rifle Head Coach Kirsten Noska said. “They’ve really set a good example for the juniors, sophomores and freshmen below them on how we want to play, work and represent this program. I couldn’t have asked for more out of them; we’re really going to miss them.”
With the loss, Rifle falls to 5-16 (0-10 4A Western Slope League) on the season. The Bears will travel to Eagle Valley on Saturday for a matchup with the Devils.
Coal Ridge improves to 13-5 (7-1 3A Western Slope League) on the season. The Titans will host Gunnison on Saturday for their Senior Night.