Spikers look for consistency

Ups and downs, peaks and valleys and a roller coaster ride are terms the Moffat County volleyball team members would use to describe the season so far.

But despite inconsistencies, the Bulldogs are 2-1 going into today's Western Slope League opener against Rifle.

"There have been some good things, but we need to make the peaks longer," coach Becky Jackson said. "We need to find more consistency."

One area the Bulldogs have been consistent in is finishing in the lower half of the WSL the past seven seasons.

This year, they want things to be different.

"We set the goal to finish in the top three of league," senior Mari Katherine Raftopoulos said.

Considering the parity and strength of the league from top to bottom, the Bulldogs will need to be competitive every night to reach that goal.

"We are in no position to take advantage of any team," Jackson said. "It's an honor to play in such a strong league."

The numbers from the WSL spikers speak for themselves. Battle Mountain started the season ranked in the state's top five because the Huskies returned seven juniors with varsity experience who helped the team place fourth in the league last year. Palisade, the defending WSL champ, is 6-0 at this point in the season, and so is Glenwood Springs. Eagle Valley and Steamboat Springs have talented teams year in and year out.

Rifle and Delta are traditionally at the bottom of the league, but as Jackson said, the Bulldogs can't take any team for granted.

"The Rifle coach (Geneva Farr) is very competitive, and she promised her team would be better this year," Jackson said. "I fully expect them to be at least as good as Rangely."

The Bulldogs squeaked out a five-set victory (25-20,25-22,24-26, 16-25, 15-13) against Rangely on Tuesday.

The fifth-ranked in Class 2A Panthers fought back from a 0-2 deficit to send the match into five. The third and fourth sets were examples of an early-season valley for the Bulldogs.

"Both us and Rangely came out and played at a high level the first two games," Jackson said. "Then we dropped, and Rangely stayed where they were at."

Moffat jumped out to an 11-3 lead in the fifth set but let the Panthers back into the match. The Bulldogs regained composure to win the game, 15-13.

"We haven't had a match where we started off well and ended well," senior April Sanchez said. "We need to sustain throughout the match."

On Saturday, the Bulldogs lost in four games to Fruita Monument. In that match, the Bulldogs didn't warm up until the third set, winning 27-25.

"I'm grateful we had a chance to play Fruita," Jackson said. "They were one of those great teams that I would never regret scheduling because they were a challenge and they showed us things."

After the preseason, Jackson said the team's serving, digging and blocking are right where she would hope they would be. What needs work is the team's ability to put away a point.

"Our kill percentage is too low," Jackson said. "We have too many errors when the opportunity for a kill is there."

Raftopoulos and Sanchez, both hitters, agreed.

"Out serving and blocking are definitely there," Raftopoulos said. "Part of our inconsistency has been in kills."

Today is the next opportunity for the Bulldogs to improve and make their first step toward the top-three goal. They face Rifle, 0-4, at 6:30 p.m. in Craig. The freshmen match starts at 4:30 and will be followed by the junior varsity match.

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