Moffat County volleyball splits weekend series to start league slate

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
Cayden King celebrates the match-winning kill for MCHS volleyball against Cedaredge.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

With three games across four days in the past week, it didn’t start off exactly as Moffat County High School volleyball players might have liked, but the Bulldogs only got stronger as they went.

MCHS had a mix of non-conference competition and 3A Western Slope League opponents during the week with a road game against Soroco followed by dual home games against 3A WSL teams Delta and Cedaredge.

Rocking Rams

The Bulldogs had their work cut out for them Wednesday in Oak Creek, and the 2A Soroco Rams stayed steady after experiencing their first loss of the season a week prior in Meeker.

MoCo trailed much of the opening set, apart from good runs at the service line by senior Taytum Smercina and junior Makaela Simpson, with the hosting team winning 25-19.

The second set was all the rougher, with Soroco up 9-0 from the onset and 14-2 by the time the Bulldogs took a timeout. Hard hits by seniors Olivia Profumo and Abbe Adams and junior Lizzy LeWarne helped narrow the gap, yet the Rams stayed ahead through a 25-12 finish.

With the Bulldogs now warmed up, a more even third set ultimately went to Soroco at 25-21.

“I feel like we let them get on a run and get in our heads, but we were able to pull ourselves out of it and just think, ‘the next set is not gonna be like this.'” Smercina said. “I wanted to have fun, and it seemed like we did. We all worked hard, and I’m proud of my team.”fa

Cats and Dogs

Back on their home court Friday, MCHS girls were ready and raring for their first WSL match, namely the Delta Panthers.

Following a 2-1 defeat of the Bulldog C-Team and close losses by the MoCo JV, the varsity squad got down to business quickly.

LeWarne earned plentiful points with well-placed early kills as the game got underway.

“I just try to hit it hard enough so they’ll kind of back off and have a general idea of where I want it to go,” LeWarne said of her spike technique. “I really felt on tonight; Jacie (Evenson) was setting great, and they were all making good passes.”

The two teams stayed largely even until a 15-all scenario as the Panthers went on a six-point run as the Lady Dogs struggled to respond to serves from Delta’s Ellie Ames. Late volleys kept Bulldog fans’ energy up, but the Panthers ended the first set 25-18.

Despite Delta momentum to start the second round on a roll, the Bulldogs buckled down when faced with game point, benefiting from a Panther foul as they went to 24-24. However, Delta fought fiercely for the next point, while a MoCo hit failed to stay inbounds to put the scoreboard at 26-24, Panthers.

Another shaky start in the third set hurt MCHS, but they once again they proved they could catch up when playing from behind, with junior Alexis Jones got on fire at the service line.

“It’s the first time I’ve served this season in a game, so I was a little nervous,” Jones said. “We’re all super skilled, so just need to be able to put it all together.”

Once again, the teams were tied at 24 after a solid spike by junior Cayden King, yet flubbed serves by both teams, combined with an unsuccessful hit at the end let Delta complete the sweep with a 27-25 finale.

“Those were really hard calls for the refs to make, but we have to not get mad at them and respect them,” said MCHS head coach Becca Sage.

Black and blue

MCHS moved on with another home event Saturday, this time hosting the Cedaredge Bruins, just off a four-set loss in Meeker the previous night.

A back-and-forth beginning started to favor the Bruins until Moffat County tied it at 17, with Adams notching starting to notch aces at the service line.

Ties at 21, 22, and 23 came from there, but once the Lady Dogs were ahead at 24, the game point was decided by Profumo pounding the ball to the floor for the 25-23 win.

“It’s definitely nerve-wracking, but when you’re in the right mindset, it makes it that much better,” Profumo said of the close score. “We’re definitely feeling a lot more confident and pulling our game together and doing really good.”

Cedaredge took advantage of MoCo miscues early in the second period for a 4-0 start, but MCHS was able to tie it up just as frequently as their opponents with the total equal on no fewer than seven occasions, the last being 22-22. However, Bruin service let them push ahead to a 25-22 W.

A four-point run in the third set helmed by service from Smercina put the score at 11-7 Bulldogs by the first timeout. The two sides kept evening up the score, but a small advantage was just enough as Profumo gained the ace on game point for a 25-22 result.

With the Bulldog student section chanting, “She’s a freshman!” repeatedly in the later sets — despite a varsity roster exclusively comprised of juniors and seniors — Cedaredge started to fall apart in the fourth round, as evidenced by a five-point run to lead 15-9.

“The fourth set we decided we wanted to get it over with and just blow them out of the water,” Profumo said.

Back-to-back blocks by Adams let the Dogs move to 20-14 — MCHS the first to 20 in every set Saturday — while King ended the day with a final kill to win 25-15.

Though she could tell her athletes were especially excited in the fourth set, Sage was wary about celebrating too soon.

“I always tell them the game’s not over until it’s over,” she said. “Just play to the whistle, don’t worry about what everybody else is doing. That’s all I ask.”

The defeat of the Bruins stopped the Bulldogs’ cold streak to move to 3-5 overall as well as 1-1 in league games. MCHS next plays Rifle on the road Sept. 23 before hosting Roaring Fork the following Saturday.

MCHS volleyball celebrates a point victory during a match in Soroco.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
Olivia Profumo makes a hit during an MCHS volleyball match against Cedaredge.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
Lizzy LeWarne attacks the net in a match against Cedaredge for MCHS volleyball.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
Diana Arellano readies a serve in a match for MCHS volleyball against Cedaredge.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
Moffat County volleyball celebrates a win over Cedaredge.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
Abbe Adams reaches for a tip against Soroco for MCHS volleyball.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press
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