Closing her eyes and drawing in a deep breath while signaling to which zone she wanted Thursday’s match-point serve targeted, it was clear Brittany Lang had envisioned such a moment, especially in a road match, for her hardworking Lady Jays.
“Confidence builds character, and these guys haven’t won in two, three years,” she said. “So it’s time.”
And there was no doubt that should the ball return to their side of the net, the most confident Jay would get the first crack at securing a three-game 2A/1A San Juan Basin League victory inside Ignacio High School Gymnasium. Ignacio definitely knew who’d receive junior Emmalee Asnicar’s set, but couldn’t stop junior middle Magdalena Halls from mashing down her 13th kill and finalizing Mancos’ authoritative 25-15, 25-16, 25-22 win.
“We have a funky rotation, to have her playing in the back row as a middle,” said Lang. “She can read ... when to go line, go cross, go cut, go seam. Magdalena’s consistent all the way around, front row or back.”
Senior Morgan Rose registered six kills, while Asnicar finished with 24 assists as Mancos high School improved to 1-1 in league and 2-4 overall. Defensively, Halls and Rose each recorded nine digs while junior libero Kacey Wallace logged another eight against a Volleycat attack led by junior Makayla Howell, senior Kiana Valdez and freshman Alexis Pontine.
But perhaps the most important of all Mancos’ statistical numbers was the “loneliest” number: One.
As in the number of times where Ignacio actually held the lead – at 7-6, early in Game 3 – on their own court.
But a wide serve quickly retied the score, which would also be even at 8, 10 and 15 before the Jays again began separating. Howell hit long, giving Mancos a 16-15 advantage, and after Valdez hit into the net Rose smacked down an Ignacio overpass. The Cats (2-2, 1-1 SJBL) then lost another point to a passing error, and Rose followed with the night’s most vicious spike — a wallop that drilled a crouching Valdez’s cheek, just below her left eye.
“We changed our rotation completely, to put the best players in for the most amount of time,” Lang said. “And I think the team is maturing; they’re understanding how to play together.”
Having opened each game on a 5-1 run, that maturity was ultimately tested late in Game 3 when Ignacio rallied back to as close as 21-20 behind two Reyna Cruz service aces — forcing Lang to take a timeout and issue one simple command.
“Calm down,” she recalled, stressing each word. “When communication breaks down, play breaks down, so they have to be good at commentating on the game rather than just ‘talking’ through the game.”
Cruz’s next attempt narrowly missed clipping the sideline for a third consecutive gem, but Wallace’s ensuing serve hit the strings, giving Ignacio the serve down 22-21. A double-contact violation against Howell put Mancos up two, but Pontine tooled a double-block to keep the margin tight, 23-22.
Rose, however, responded with a clutch kill into a vacated IHS center, putting the Cats on the brink of defeat and their own skipper on excited pins and needles.
Up next for the Jays will be a visit from SJBL’ers Telluride on, Sept. 8, with action inside the Mancos Performance Center beginning at 11:00 a.m. Ignacio will look to rebound with an 11 a.m. start at Ouray.