Bulldog bench gives big boost in homecoming volleyball win over Aspen
It was a happy homecoming for the Lady Bulldogs as they dug themselves out of a hole Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Aspen Skiers.
With a roster that’s been shifting week after week, Moffat County volleyball’s season has been unpredictable to say the least.
However, with plenty of talent, head coach Becca Sage has only had to trust that her athletes can get it done when it counts.
Sage said she was unsure what was happening in the fourth set, though it wasn’t too far off from the team’s 3-0 loss in Delta, which was close each round until a disastrous 25-9 finale.
“I think I will have gray hair at the end of this season,” she said. “Delta was nothing special other than at the end, we did that to ourselves. This (fourth) set tonight, that’s how they were playing against Delta.”
While starters Caitlyn Adams, Alexis Herndon, Ruby Short, Alexis Jones, and Lizzy LeWarne were certainly getting things done at the net — LeWarne in particular was firing on all cylinders throughout the evening — it was the second-string players who gave the Dogs the extra oomph they needed.
With the student section clad in red, white and blue — the dress-up day theme — and players on either side of the court wearing the same colors, it may as well have been the Olympic gold on the line as MoCo girls went into their fifth set.
The Skiers took a 25-18 win to start the night, while the Bulldogs turned it around in back-to-back sets of 25-21 and 25-22. However, an eight-point run to start the fourth set carried Aspen into the tiebreaker as they stymied Moffat 25-10.
With senior Makaela Simpson out temporarily with an ankle injury, sophomore Mena Tucker was brought up to fill in the outside hitter position. Ready for the role, Tucker earned countless clutch kills during every set of the match.
She credited Jones’ assists for getting her the K’s.
“Everyone was really helping me out today, and I was very thankful for that,” Tucker said. “It was really exciting to get to play a lot. I think the team played together tonight.”
Tucker said she was a little upset with herself with an overeager serve at match point — the Bulldogs nonetheless finished the fifth set 16-14 — but she wasn’t the only player who was coping well with pressure.
In the back row, senior Audri Connolly was seeing more varsity minutes than she has all fall and letting almost nothing behind her as she dug and dug to keep the ball in play. After recovering from a shoulder injury, she was more than ready to show her skill.
“It was a little bit of pressure, but this was the funnest game I’ve ever played,” Connolly said. “It felt good to finally prove myself. I was just thinking, ‘go everywhere, cover everything.’”
Sage was thrilled with all her players as well as the fact that a well-rounded roster can work wonders.
“I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but it seems like when I let them take care of things and not say anything for a while, they catch on and they figure it out,” she said. “We have sophomores like Mena and Caitlyn who are really stepping it up, and Audri is a great back row player for us. They get in their heads a bit, they like to win, so sometimes they kind of shut down, but they figure it out quickly.”
MCHS volleyball is 8-3 overall and 2-1 in the 3A Western Slope League. The Bulldogs will have an additional Homecoming Week game on their own court, seeking a rivalry rematch with Steamboat Springs Saturday at noon.
“I think it’s going to be a good redemption game,” Sage said.
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