Moffat County volleyball dominates Roaring Fork to finish season strong on Senior Night
For Craig Press
First the bad news: Moffat County High School volleyball players got to spend far less time together on the court Saturday than they might have wanted for their final outing of the season.
The good news: That was kind of the goal.
MCHS ended the spring with a Senior Night sweep of the visiting Roaring Fork Rams, taking hard-earned victories of 27-25, 25-23 and 25-22.
The match was one of the most even the Lady Bulldogs have had this year, said coach Jessica Profumo.
“I’ve been really pushing the girls to finish playing their best, and they did that tonight,” she said.
MCHS girls were a little emotional with the opening ceremony of the varsity game, as they gave a send-off to their lone senior, Ashlyn Simpson, complete with a gift basket and presentation with her parents and siblings, including her teammate and sister Makaela, an MCHS sophomore.
The past season was Ashlyn’s only one as a MoCo player, the family coming to Craig from Kemmerer, Wyoming. Though she only had a short time to get to know them, she expressed her appreciation for her fellow players.
“My teammates have always had my back,” Ashlyn said. “It was great to have support from them.”
Lady Dogs made a statement quickly to the Rams that they were ready to defend the home court, as Abbe Adams promptly shut down a Roaring Fork hit with a big block, her first of five throughout the day. Adams followed that with a kill of her own and an ace for the team’s first three points.
MoCo led for nearly the entire set, ahead by at most five points, though it was punctuated by Roaring Fork tying it up five times. Two of those ties came at game point, as the Rams made the MCHS girls sweat at 24-24 and 25-25. An off serve by the Rams gave the Bulldogs their 26th point, but it was a decisive spike by Olivia Profumo to the middle of the floor that earned the win.
However, the momentum didn’t carry on right away as the second set saw Roaring Fork getting in gear as the home squad struggled to communicate. By the time the Rams had their greatest lead at 15-8, coach Profumo called a timeout.
After the breather, MoCo hitters were suddenly back in the right mindset, with a streak of kills by Olivia Profumo, Adams and Alexis Jones getting the group 11 points to the Rams’ five to tie it at 20. Again, the conclusion was closer than either side would like, even again at 23, but another Profumo kill and a side out took care of that before extra points were needed.
Both teams knew what was at stake for the final set of the day, which would prove to be the last of the season for each of them. So, MoCo players got creative, including setter Jacie Evenson switching things up with a couple of crucial tips at the net to disrupt the Ram defense.
Likewise, coach Profumo put her senior in the back row for the Dogs’ final five points rather than up front where Ashlyn had been most of the match.
“She was getting a little worked up with there only being a few points left,” Profumo said of her upperclassman shedding a few tears. “I thought she would do really well in the back, and she did a good job there.”
The team surged toward victory as the MCHS student section broke out the brooms to celebrate the 3-0 sweep.
The Saturday slate of games was successful for the Bulldog teams as a whole, with the sweep starting with 2-0 runs for each of the younger crews. C-Team took wins of 25-14 and 25-17, while junior varsity earned 25-13 and 25-18 tallies.
Apart from a brief cold stretch in the middle of the second set, JV coach Stacy Atkin said the finale was a pleasing one, largely due to girls’ positivity.
“I told them to just go out there and have fun,” she said. “Play your positions and do your best at what you do.”
JV player Ruby Short was especially thrilled with the outcome for the day as the younger athletes showed how well they’re mastering the tougher parts of the sport.
“There was a lot of control all over the court, and we were super-coordinated together,” said Short, an MCHS freshman. “From the beginning of the season to now, we definitely worked better knowing where everybody belongs on the court, like we really know how to work with our setters now. It’s been a fun time getting to know everybody.”
Diana Arellano had perhaps the busiest day of anyone on the Bulldog side of the court as the designated libero for both JV and varsity. The unique position is a tricky one, though the MCHS sophomore has welcomed the challenge.
“It’s really taught me to be on top of where the ball is. You really have to watch everything,” she said. “JV’s a little bit slower, but that doesn’t mean it’s not intense. With varsity, serve-receive is a little bit more intense, but I love libero. I think it’s the only position I’d want to play.”
The near future
In Bulldog varsity stats, the group notched a mere three aces against a receptive Ram group. Still, Evenson earned 25 assists, while Olivia Profumo led in kills with 13, seven in the second set alone. Adams had eight, Lizzy LeWarne six, Jones four, Evenson three and Taytum Smercina one.
“Once they figure out what’s working offensively, it’s fun to watch,” coach Profumo said.
The win put MoCo’s final record at 5-8 — which in a typical year would include about 10 more games — and though their win percentage was lower than the 2019 season, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves ranked similarly at seventh place in the 3A Western Slope League.
Helping that number along at the tail end of the schedule was an April 16 blowout in Grand Junction over Caprock Academy — 25-18, 25-12, 25-10 — before a 3-1 loss the next day in Cedaredge, a second set win of 25-21 the Dogs’ best round among defeats to the Bruins of 25-19, 25-12 and 25-19.
“In Cedaredge, the girls played some of the best ball of the year, defensively,” coach Profumo said. “The long rallies were clean and fun to watch.”
The team’s final road game of the season took place Thursday against Grand Valley, turning out to be a very up-and-down game as MoCo took dual 25-23 wins before losing 25-18 and 25-21, turning it around at the end with a 15-12 win in the fifth set over the Cardinals.
“What they’ve been doing quite a bit this season is earning the points and getting the lead and breathing like it’s over, but I’ve had to remind them it’s not over until the 25th point,” coach Profumo said.
While 5-9 Grand Valley finished fifth in the conference, had they not ended with a 3-0 win Saturday in Gunnison, each would have finished 3-6 in league play, and the outcome would have been a four-way tie among the two with Aspen and Moffat County.
Also worth noting is that in terms of overall win-loss numbers, MoCo had the fifth best among the 10 Western Slope teams.
On one hand, the spring season meant a lot of drawbacks for players and coaches, with a briefer schedule right on the heels of basketball season, limiting initial gym time.
However, coach Profumo anticipates a bright season once volleyball is back to its usual autumn timeframe with a bundle of juniors — Adams, Evenson, Smercina, Olivia Profumo — coming back for their senior year, not to mention sophomores who have stepped up greatly, like Arellano, LeWarne, Jones, Aftyn Kawcak, Makaela Simpson, and Cayden King.
“There’s not going to be a whole year between now and when they come back around, so I think they’ll feel a lot more comfortable getting back into the traditional season and having more practices,” coach Profumo said. “It’s crazy how fast it goes.”
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