Having gone 1-1 so far during its season-ending five-game home stand, the Moffat County volleyball team was looking to play spoiler against the top-two teams in the league.
The Bulldogs and Steamboat Springs hosted Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain in a two-town quad tournament Saturday. Moffat County hosted Eagle Valley in the morning and Battle Mountain in the evening.
Match 1: Moffat County vs. Eagle Valley
The Bulldogs came into the day's first game fired up after a grueling homecoming loss Tuesday to rival Steamboat Springs.
But the fire didn't burn quite long enough.
Moffat County cruised to early leads in the match, but couldn't hold them on their way to a 21-25, 16-25 and 24-26 loss.
"They just finished better than us," MCHS coach Brianna Montgomery said. "That comes with being successful. They are a great team, and we had a lot of errors there at the end."
Two rotation calls against the Devils put Moffat County up, 8-1, in Game 1, but Eagle Valley showed why they currently are the top team in the Western Slope League.
Devils freshman Alex Lassa single-handedly brought her team back, contributing eight kills in the first frame.
MCHS senior Ariel Sanchez's kill put the Bulldogs up, 14-8, and a block and subsequent kill by junior Sara Kurz had the home team up, 19-17.
But Lassa turned it up.
She contributed four kills as the Devils pulled away for the 25-21 come-from-behind victory.
"We just kept fighting," Lassa said. "We knew we could come back. We play each game point-by-point."
Kurz's tip volley helped the Bulldogs take a 4-2 lead in Game 2, and another tip - executed to perfection by MCHS junior Jordan Maneotis - pushed the lead to 8-5 in the home team's favor.
An ace by senior Jennifer Harris broke a nine-all tie, but the Devils stormed back once again.
Lassa's kill broke a 12-all tie, and the Devils never looked back.
Moffat County was called with two consecutive rotational penalties at 16-22, and an ace by Eagle Valley's Jaclyn Taylor put the Bulldogs in a two-games-to-none hole.
Game 3 was much of the same.
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 13-5 lead behind a Sanchez kill, forcing Devils coach Shawn Weatherred to call a timeout.
Lassa flew in for three consecutive kills after the break, but Sanchez struck again.
The senior had two kills as the Bulldogs pushed their lead to 17-12, and an ace by Harris had the crowd in attendance chanting for a Game 4.
But Eagle Valley had other ideas.
A tip volley by Devils sophomore Shelby Wright put the visitors up by one, at 22-21.
Tied at 24, Moffat County's two errors sealed the match.
"We just focus on one point at a time," Weatherred said. "We did that today."
Despite the loss, Montgomery said she was impressed with how her team played.
"I was really pleased with how well they played together," she said. "They swung the ball better than they have all season. Today was possibly the best we've played all year."
Match 2: Moffat County vs. Battle Mountain
The Devils traveled east to Steamboat Springs - who defeated Battle Mountain, 25-23, 25-20 and 25-23, in the Sailors' early match - and the Huskies came west to play the Bulldogs.
Having been swept at Steamboat, the Huskies admittedly were looking to take out their frustration on Moffat County.
"We were stressed out" because of the Steamboat loss, Battle Mountain junior Piper McMillin said. "We wanted to come in here and play our game. We didn't against Steamboat. In this game, we had way better communication on the court."
They did, running past the Bulldogs in three games, 9-25, 8-25 and 13-25.
"We struggled to find any momentum," Montgomery said.
Originally scheduled for 4 p.m., the match was moved up to 2 p.m. - a subtle change that Montgomery said affected her squad.
"We weren't supposed to play until much later," she said. "We didn't really get a warm up, and the girls were full of food from lunch."
Unfortunately for Bulldogs fans, the Huskies weren't interested in being dessert.
Battle Mountain jumped out to a 14-2 lead in Game 1, parlaying that into a convincing 25-9 victory.
Game 2 was much of the same.
Moffat County took its only lead of the match at 1-0 and found themselves still in it, trailing 10-5.
But the Huskies reeled off nine consecutive points, pulling away for a 25-8 win.
Game 3 was a perfect example of the fight living inside the Bulldogs.
Battle Mountain pulled ahead, 4-2, but Moffat County wasn't going to be swept without giving the Huskies a run for their money.
The Bulldogs wouldn't let Battle Mountain pull away until late in the game.
A stuff block by Kurz pulled Moffat County within two at 7-5, and a kill by junior Natasha Romney cut the lead to 8-6.
But the Huskies answered with seven consecutive points, pulling away from the Bulldogs on their way to a match-deciding 25-13 victory.
"It's a bummer," Kurz said of the loss. "But we'll get them next year."
Moffat County fell to 2-9 in the Western Slope, 3-12 overall. Battle Mountain's two-game split moved the Huskies to 9-2 WSL, 12-3 overall, while the Devils kept a firm hold on the league's top spot, moving to 10-1 WSL, 13-2 overall.
John Vandelinder can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org