Moffat County volleyball senior night features tributes, comebacks, postseason hope |

Moffat County volleyball senior night features tributes, comebacks, postseason hope

Moffat County senior volleyball players flex after a win against Coal Ridge on Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022, in Craig.
Andy Bockelman/Craig Press

During any senior night event for Moffat County High School, there’s bound to be tears at some point, but the waterworks were flowing especially hard on Tuesday night, Oct. 18.

The Bulldogs volleyball team swept the Coal Ridge Titans in three sets during Moffat County’s final home game of the fall, though the win itself was almost secondary to some of the other emotional happenings of the evening.

Miss you, Macey

Before the varsity game began, the seven MoCo seniors took to the top of the bleachers for an important presentation regarding the eighth member of the team who was there in spirit. Team captain Alexis Jones asked the crowd to take a moment of remembrance for Macey Booco, who passed away at 15 in March 2020 following a car accident.

Booco was part of the Bulldogs JV volleyball team as a freshman and sophomore, and her jersey — No. 15 — was draped on the end of the home team’s bench along with a framed photo and blue and white balloons.

“We all wish you were here with us, but we know you’re watching down on all of us,” Jones said.

While Booco was a cousin to Jones, all the senior athletes thought of her as more than a teammate.

“She deserved to be with us today,” senior Audri Connolly said.

The feelings kept going as senior players and their family members were honored. The Bulldogs provided roses for Coal Ridge senior athletes and managers, though the younger players provided sizable gift baskets for the eldest members of the varsity crew — Diana Arellano, Alexis Herndon, Cayden King, Lizzy LeWarne, Makaela Simpson, Connolly and Jones.

“It was very sentimental. I cried a lot,” Simpson said of joining her mother and siblings on the floor.

Coming back strong

Last December, the Bulldog basketball team got off to a rough start as King suffered an ACL injury in the team’s second game. She missed the rest of the hoops and track seasons, and has been working to get back to normal. In the past weeks, she’s suited up for volleyball games, though fans have been waiting for her to take the court.

Tuesday wasn’t King’s first match back, as she was worked into the rotation during a couple recent road games, which the Bulldogs won 3-0 over Caprock Academy and lost 3-0 to North Fork. Subbed in midway through the second set against Coal Ridge, King posted a big block that got rousing cheers.

“That was really exciting,” she said. “After 10 months, it’s really nice to be back on the home court. It was even more special to be on senior night. I got in for only one set, but it was totally worth it.”

King, who’s played on the varsity team since freshman year, has been cautious about overexerting herself, though the return boosted her confidence.

“It’ll take some getting used to, but I’m ready now,” she said.

She wasn’t the only one who was playing after significant recovery. Arellano was unsure earlier in her high school career if she would be able to return to the sport after undergoing spinal fusion surgery as a sophomore.

“Two metal rods and like 16 screws in my back,” she said of the process. “I recovered and came back after four months and was varsity libero. That’s the spot I’ve wanted since I was in middle school.”

After wins in the first two sets, the 25-22 finale was closer than the Dogs might have liked but still secured the three-set sweep.

“It’s great to get it done in three for a night like this,” Arellano said. “I’ve grown up with these girls and played with them through middle school, so this was a really good way to end it.”

Perhaps they didn’t want their final home game to end too soon.

“A lot of the girls were emotional, and by then we were thinking, ‘This is it,’” LeWarne said. “It was kind of a surreal moment, but we pulled it out and that made it more interesting.”

More memories to come?

At 11-7 overall with one game to go in the regular schedule, MoCo has its first winning season since 2007. This is also the first time in several years Moffat County will be in a playoff scenario after the removal of the district tournament format in 2016.

The Class 3A division will feature up to 36 teams in a playoff bracket, which will be determined by both MaxPreps rankings and CHSAA’s RPI data. MoCo stood at 20th in RPI as of Wednesday, Oct. 19, the second-highest of any of the 3A Western Slope League teams.

The Bulldogs will travel to Rifle on Tuesday, Oct. 25, and a win will help boost their conference placement, as will as aid any kind of playoff potential.

“Rifle’s going to be important, but we’re all looking forward to the chance to compete at that level,” Jones said. “It’s been a long time since Moffat County has been there.”

LeWarne said that while she’s used to being in high-stakes games for basketball, it’s odd but pleasing to be in the mix for another sport.

“I don’t even know how the playoff bracket works for volleyball, but it’s awesome to be on a team that makes it that far,” she said. “It’s sad knowing I won’t get to play another volleyball game here, but I’m really excited for basketball and knowing I’ve still got more games to play here. I’ve loved playing with those girls.”

Herndon said she believes the team’s latest performance shows their capabilities.

“We came together as a team, brought each other up and just killed it all-around,” she said. “If we play like we did (Tuesday night), I think we’ll do great.”

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