Moffat County volleyball triumphs with first win ever over Coal Ridge

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
Jacie Evneson goes for a bump during a Moffat County volleyball match.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Though it wasn’t a perfect three-day run, Moffat County High School volleyball players came out stronger than they started.

With three consecutive days of competition, MCHS girls were 2-1 with a loss Thursday in Hayden leading to decisive wins, one at home against Caprock Academy Friday night and on the road Saturday versus Coal Ridge.

Taking on the Tigers

The short drive east on Highway 40 that the Lady Bulldogs have taken many times brought with it their first time ever playing in Hayden’s new gym.

Hayden girls held the lead for the entire first set, with the scoreboard reading 7-2 by the time MCHS head coach Becca Sage called her first timeout, and by the next break the deficit was at 14-6.

“They came out strong and we didn’t come out as strong as we typically do,” Sage said. “We really need to work on our defense and reading hitters. Our goal in a lot of games is to let the other team make the mistakes and we keep our side OK. We didn’t do that, we had a lot of balls wind up on our side.”

By the time the Bulldogs began getting on a roll, it was too late, as Hayden ended the opening set 25-18.

After almost tripping over each other in the first set, the Dogs covered the floor well in the second with an abundance of dives and digs.

“A lot of hitting the ground really saved the ball. We’re practicing how to read the ball and get it up better,” said senior Taytum Smercina.

With a 24-22 lead, a game point hit by the Tigers at first was ruled out only for the refs to determine an MCHS block attempt had indeed caught the ball, giving another win to Hayden.

Things started changing by the third round, and Smercina picked up four straight points single-handedly, a kill leading to her taking her spot on the service with three serves unreturned by Hayden, leading to a timeout as MoCo led 12-6.

“We were really slow at first and weren’t really communicating at all,” Smercina said. “We started to talk and connect and set it up and get it down, which is great. We were able to play, which was fun.”

Smercina added that an increasingly vocal cluster of Moffat County schoolmates opposite Hayden’s student section played into the comeback.

“It’s definitely a big help getting us going,” she said.

Once MCHS girls got their score to 20, it was all but over as senior Abbe Adams earned dual aces and junior Cayden King pounded the ball to the floor for kills on the last two Bulldog points in a 25-20 W.

“They were angry at the momentum in the gym and they wanted to flip it around, and they definitely did. That was a good win to get,” Sage said.

MCHS worked it around and varied their approach at the net in the fourth set, with some points coming by delicate tips and others by devastating spikes, including Adams hitting it right in the face of Hayden’s libero late in the round.

The Tigers stayed just far enough ahead to again lead 24-22, but a bad serve at match point gave it to the Dogs with a one-point cushion. However, a frantic Bulldog bump that resulted in a side out prevented a push to a fifth set as the Tigers took it 25-23.

Still, no one was too disappointed with the late effort, least of all Sage, knowing better things would be on the way.

Smercina was also confident the coming weekend would be in store.

“We’ll really be on our A game,” she said.

Clipping Caprock

Friday night saw the varsity players shed their long-sleeve jerseys for a retro night with older uniforms from yesteryear with collars and no sleeves.

The evening, which also served as Military Appreciation Night, was wholly on the home teams’ side against the Caprock Academy Eagles.

The result was a sweep as the Bulldogs took wins of 25-13, 25-9, and 25-15.

The Dogs were on the attack all night with 23 kills, seven of which were by Adams, five by King, and three by Smercina and fellow senior Jacie Evenson.

Sage pointed to the second set as an example of her team’s energy, during which Adams was at the line for most of the round, compiling eight aces across the night.

Toppling the Titans

After back-to-back matches with smaller schools, Moffat County volleyball was back in 3A Western Slope League play Saturday, facing off with the Coal Ridge Titans, who have been a consistent thorn in their side.

Ever since moving to the 3A WSL in 2012, MCHS has struggled particularly with the Titans year after year. Every game against Coal Ridge in the past decade has not only been a loss but a 3-0 sweep.

But, with the Bulldog football team overcoming their perpetual bully Friday night in Rifle, the girls were no doubt thinking, “Why not us?”

That streak of winning sets for the Titans ended right away as the Dogs earned their first W ever at 25-23.

Coal Ridge evened it up at 25-20 in the next period, but Moffat County were on their game all the more from there, with a 25-17 third set and 25-20 fourth, much to the delight of coaches and players.

“The girls played better than they ever have and made almost no mistakes in the sets we wound up winning,” Sage said.

The victory allowed MCHS to improve to 8-7 on the season and 4-2 in the conference, now ranked fifth of the 11 3A WSL teams.

The Bulldogs will have a lengthy stretch of road games coming up, starting Tuesday with a faceoff against Roaring Fork in Carbondale, followed by match-ups with the newly formed North Fork Miners and the Gunnison Cowboys across the next weekend.

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