Regional play in Gunnison on Saturday
After defeating Moffat in a closely contested match last Tuesday to qualify for Friday’s round-robin District tournament, the Lady Titans’ volleyball team knew they needed to look deep within themselves to find the intensity they would need to make it to Regionals.
They also knew the other three teams congregated in Blanca were just as eager for one of the two Regional spots. “Whatever they needed to motivate themselves, they evidently found,” says coach Marla Covey. “They started the day strong and focused.”
Senior tri-captain Mackenzie Mailly found her serve after struggling from the service line for much of the latter part of the season, stringing together nine straight serves, and senior tri-captain Kaitlin Councilman found the two hitters she would ultimately rely on throughout the day in junior Sydney Loyed and senior Chelsea Dill.
But after two games and two wins—25-16, 25-22—with strong fundamental volleyball, junior back-up setter Hillari Spencer fell the wrong way on a wrist she had injured earlier in the week, and the Titans’ flow seemed suddenly to evaporate.
Dropping the third and fourth games 16-25 and 18-25, despite 11 kills from the team and a nearly perfect hitting percentage with double-digit attempts from Loyed, the Titans were suddenly in trouble.
“I’ve never seen such a dramatic shift in momentum from this team, and Sierra Grande saw it, too. It was like I had made a mass substitution instead of replacing one injured player,” says Covey.
Now up against a wall, the Titans picked it up a notch, going for more on their serves and in their spike attempts. In a game to 15, Mailly and Loyed matched the number of kills the entire team had tallied in the fourth game to 25, and the Titans didn’t even make it around a service rotation before defeating the Panthers 15-10.
The next match against Creede was entirely different. With Dill back in the middle-hitter spot and sophomore Karleigh Dean in for Spencer, the newly configured Titan team began to gel.
“It would probably be understatement to say Karleigh was a little nervous as the back-up setter,” says Covey. “But I’d have never put her in that position if I wasn’t confident she’d do well.”
The Titans rolled through Creede, 25-20, 25-15, 25-13.
With two wins under their belts, the Titans caught the end of the Mountain Valley/Sierra Grande match, and as it became more and more apparent that Sierra Grande was about to lose their second match of the day, it also became more and more apparent to the Titans that they had just guaranteed themselves a spot in the Regional tournament for the first time since 2002.
“You have nothing to lose in this match,” Covey told her team as they took the court against Mountain Valley. “Let’s go for everything.”
Despite pushing every rally—16 kills, seven perfect digs, 90 percent serving, and five blocks—the Titans had difficulties stringing together points, instead going point for point with Mountain Valley on their own serve. “Winning games is nearly impossible when you can only get one point at a time,” said Covey. “They took early leads every game, and we just couldn’t quite get back ahead.” The Titans lost the match in straight games, 21-25, 21-25, 18-25.
Crested Butte enters the regional tournament in Gunnison Saturday, November 1, as the fourth seed and will open play at 10:15 a.m. against top seed Dove Creek. Their next match will be at 11:30 a.m. against Mountain Valley.
If necessary Crested Butte would play again later at 2 p.m. against North Park.