Fruita might be considered one of the stronger teams in Class 5A volleyball, but it had to work for every point against the Moffat County Bulldogs on Saturday afternoon in Craig.
"They sort of surprised us with some of their hits," Fruita senior Shayne Kovach said.
The Bulldogs' scrappy play pushed Fruita to the limits in the three-game match, which the Wildcats won, 25-23, 26-24, 25-20.
"In the first game, we had some really nice glimpses of greatness," Fruita coach Ameilia Conner said.
Those glimpses were just enough to propel the Wildcats past Moffat County.
During the first game, Fruita jumped out to a small 3-1 lead, but after some errors, the Bulldogs were able to tie it at 4-4.
The Wildcats took command of the game, taking a 19-12 lead behind strong serving from junior Carley Westernson. With a chance to put the final touches on a strong Game 1, the Wildcats faltered, and the Bulldogs were able to mount a stream of points, off mistakes from Fruita and strong serving from junior Angie Charchalis.
Down 21-18, the Bulldogs got things working in their favor, and pulled within two.
A hard shot from junior Markie Workman gave the Bulldogs the sideout and the point to put the score at 22-20.
But Fruita was able to pull together and eventually took the game, 25-23.
The second game was a turnaround for the Bulldogs, who jumped to a 4-1 lead. Again it would be Carley Westernson and the strong play of Fruita that put the Wildcats back in the game. Tied 4-4, the Wildcats and Bulldogs battled back and forth until a string of aces from Kalee Dollerschell put Fruita in the lead, 11-5.
Moffat County was down but not and soon took the lead, 18-17.
The key for Moffat County was the hitting of Charchalis and the constant effort by the entire team to keep the ball off the floor.
"Moffat County is athletic," Conner said.
Moffat County interim coach Deb Yoast was so excited for her team that she burst a blood vessel in her hand. She said her team stepped up its play in Saturday's match.
"The girls have a tendency to play to their competition," Yoast said. "I was very impressed."
Although Fruita took Game 2, 26-24, it wasn't an easy game for the team.
"We have a tendency to let things slip," Kovach said. "But it just takes a couple of girls to bring us back so we can pull through."
Moffat County again gained momentum Game 3 but let it slip. Down 5-2, a few strong plays brought the Bulldogs within one, and an ace by Simpson tied the score at 6-6.
Fruita fought back to take a five-point lead. But the Bulldogs didn't give up; they tied the game twice at 16-16 and 19-19. Fruita took a time out to regroup and did just that.
The solid hitting was too much for Moffat County and the Bulldogs fell, 25-20.
Fruita is 1-0, and Moffat County is 1-1. Charchalis led the Bulldogs with 12 kills, followed by Workman with six. Kovach led the Wildcats with 12 kills; Sadler had seven.
Moffat County plays Grand Junction at 6 p.m. Thursday at Moffat County High School.
Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.