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Titans volleyball continues rollercoaster ride

October break throttles squad

by Than Acuff

As is the case with any high school team, one day they play at the top of their game and at the next contest a completely different team shows up. Volleyball is a prime example, yet even more pronounced, as a team can show both sides of its personality in a single match from set to set.

The Crested Butte Titans volleyball team has strung together a series of impressive results and then dropped matches, and sets, they shouldn’t have over the course of this season. Last week was a prime example of that. They cruised, then stumbled, then recovered to take down Ridgway on Wednesday, October 3, then rolled to a straight set match win over Dolores Huerta, only to have the squad depleted due to injuries and a school trip over the October break forcing them to forfeit two matches on Saturday, October 6.

The Ridgway Demons came to Mt. Olympus with just one win over the course of the year and the Titans looked to get back on the winning track after falling to Telluride the weekend before.

“I was hoping that they would start the week on a positive and play a good game of volleyball,” says coach Morgan McNallie.

The only glitch was the loss of their stand-out hitter Maisy Ramsey to illness and some injuries that had the team walking the fine line of chaos. Nevertheless, the Titans came out solid and in control to win the opening set.

The Titans opened the second set much like the first, taking an early 8-4 lead as Ellia Pannier dropped in a soft kill and Savannah Freeman picked the deep corner with a pinpoint hit. Apathy on the part of the Titans then allowed Ridgway to climb back into the set but a put back by Freeman and kills from Sophie Hall and Stella Newman had the Titans up 13-8 and back on track and forced Ridgway to call a timeout.

The break in the action did little to slow the Titans down as they won six of the next nine points to build a 19-11 lead. The Demons did put up a fight down the stretch but Crested Butte knocked down the necessary points in the final stretch to seal the 25-17 win to take a 2-0 lead.

Then the other Titans team took the floor and the Demons built momentum early in the third set as a succession of serving and hitting errors by Crested Butte allowed the Demons to build a 10-4 lead. The Titans cut the Demons’ lead down to three points, paced by the jump-serving prowess of Audrey Griffin, but Ridgway was determined to hold onto their advantage. Crested Butte came close to taking the set over as Nicki Rehberg came up with a big dig to eventually set up a kill by Pannier, but the following service error quashed the Titans comeback and Ridgway held on to win 25-22 and force a fourth set.

“We had a little setback in that game,” says McNallie. “Ridgway was a very scrappy team and that kind of threw us for a loop.”

McNallie switched things up a little for the fourth set. With Sophia Kubisiak still nursing a knee injury and forced to sit out the fourth set, McNallie brought Freeman back onto the floor and the move had the Titans back on course as they won the fourth set 25-19 to take the match.

“Sometimes a player change can help change up the chemistry on the floor,” says McNallie.

The Titans then hit the road on Friday, October 5 to face Dolores Huerta and found themselves on a bizarre Friday experience. For starters, during the pre-game warm-up, Sydney Stoneberg’s finger injury from the Ridgway game proved nearly impossible to play with and she stepped out of the starting line-up.

The last-minute switch had the Titans starting out slow in the first set and McNallie started to see another repeat of the Telluride loss.

“It was not looking so great,” says McNallie.

Stoneberg saw her team struggling as well, so she decided to play through the pain and stepped onto the floor for a 14-point service run to help pace the Titans to a 25-9 set win. She put together another seven-point service run to help the Titans to a 25-22 win in the second set as well.

“She rallied and she was on fire,” says McNallie.

The Titans then sealed the match, winning the third set 25-18 for the match win. Newman finished the match with 10 kills, Griffin and Hall tied with the most assists and Pannier and Rehberg led the team on defense.

“We definitely upped our game and minimized our errors,” says McNallie. “We gave Ridgway too many points off of our errors and we cut that in half against Dolores. We did well and came home with a win.”

The team then got a jolt on the ride home when the bus hit an elk early in the trip. Furthermore, coach McNallie was battling illness and several players were headed off for a school trip to Peru, leaving the team with no coach and barely six players for a scheduled doubleheader the next day in Center. As a result, they were forced to forfeit both matches.

“It was just a mess,” says McNallie.

The team will take the October break off and then jump right back into the fire once back in school as they have a match on the road on Tuesday, October 16 to play Sargents and then finish the regular season at home with matches on Thursday, October 18 against Dolores Huerta and then senior night on Saturday, October 20 against South Park.

“It’ll be tough coming back from break,” says McNallie. “I’m hopeful most of our players will be back healthy and we should have a shot against Sargent and those two last games give us a chance to end on a good note.”

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