Moffat County volleyball tests team chemistry while facing off with Coal Ridge
For Craig Press
With a much more competitive opponent Tuesday night than they’ve met so far, Moffat County High School volleyball coaches knew that the latest entry in a high-impact start to the season would be a challenge.
However, what they didn’t anticipate was how effective some experimenting with their lineup might prove to be.
MCHS girls felt the burn against Coal Ridge as the 3A Western Slope League powerhouse swept the Lady Bulldogs in three games.
The Titans likewise took care of Bulldog C-Team and JV quickly, though head coach Jessica Profumo said she was surprised that Coal Ridge wasn’t as dominant as she expected.
“I expected it to be tougher, so it was a little disappointing,” she said, noting she wanted her players to be particularly challenged by a high-caliber team. “We were lacking some intensity.”
Olivia Profumo’s opening serve caught Coal Ridge unaware as the ball flopped over the net to get a surprise ace.
The Titans didn’t waste much time after that. A seven-point run put them ahead at 10-3 and another seven-point stretch promptly afterward had them in the lead at 19-5 as MoCo hitters struggled to avoid side outs.
The result was a 25-9 first set for the Titans.
From there, coach Profumo started getting creative with the rotation by calling up her bench players.
Sophomore Aftyn Kawcak got her first varsity minutes as Profumo put her in beginning in the second set and kept her on the court for the rest of the night.
“I wasn’t expecting to be thrown in at all. Definitely a lot of nerves,” Kawcak said.
The Bulldogs buckled down in the middle round, keeping one step ahead of the Titans with a big early block by Taytum Smercina and kills by Olivia Profumo, Cayden King and Abbe Adams. MoCo held a brief lead midway through the set, hitting their stride at 11-7, but Coal Ridge regained their composure and made their way to a 25-17 win.
Kawcak said being subbed in for that long was daunting, though she welcomed it.
“There were a lot of girls out there who haven’t played as much, so there were a lot of nerves and excitement and we didn’t know how to control it,” she said.
She added that the more seasoned varsity players were especially encouraging, which did not escape the eye of their coach.
“Sometimes when you can take the focus off of yourself and worry about helping somebody else, it makes everybody play better,” coach Profumo said. “The thing about volleyball is you’re always in the same spot on the court, so the energy makes a difference.”
Kawcak’s fellow sophomores Alexis Jones and Lizzy LeWarne also found themselves on the court late in the match. Besides giving her starters a break, coach Profumo said she was pleased to have reliable backups.
“I subbed them in for actual purposes, and they did an excellent job and stepped up,” she said.
Both teams struggled with hitting in the final set, as Coal Ridge knocked more than a few into the net and Lady Dogs found it hard to keep their spiking within the line.
Even so, the Titans recovered quicker, gaining a six-point that helped them turn a 10-7 lead into a more decisive 16-7.
Jones came into the game at the tail end of Coal Ridge’s latest run.
“They had some tough hitters, good players for sure. It was tough to receive against them,” she said.
Ultimately, the visitors had too much momentum and ended the evening at 25-15.
The loss puts MCHS at 2-2 overall, 1-2 in the conference, amid a busy week as they take a break from league opponents with Thursday’s home game against Leadville’s Lake County before getting back on the road this weekend in Aspen.
Despite the defeat, coach Profumo said the bright spot of the night was seeing her younger players be ready to go when needed.
“The main thing is I want to see them step in and be aggressive and not afraid to make mistakes. I would rather see you swing your hardest, because this is your opportunity, than to be afraid. All of those girls did a great job,” she said.
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