At times during the match between the Dove Creek High School and Dolores High School volleyball teams on Sept. 11, the crowd drowned out the voices of the coaches as they shouted instructions.
Long rallies were the norm throughout the seesaw match, and hard spikes were not uncommon as Bulldogs’ outside hitter, Cassie Gatlin, and Lady Bears’ outside hitter, Jordan Elder, hammered the ball throughout the evening.
Although the match hung in the balance until the final few points, it was ultimately the Bulldogs who came out on top by a score of 21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 15-7.
Shortly after the match, Dove Creek junior Kiara Lingenfelter shared her thoughts on her team’s big win.
“I think the biggest key was keeping up all of the intensity that we had at the end of the first game and just playing with all of our heart,” Lingenfelter said. “This was a big confidence booster for us.”
While the result turned out to be a good one for Dove Creek, things did not start off positively for the Bulldogs as Dolores won the first five points of the match behind several well-placed serves by senior setter Abby Jones.
After the Bears built a 21-11 lead in the first game, Dove Creek began to find its rhythm, however, and eventually cut the Dolores lead to 23-21 after senior captain Madilyn Hankins slammed a kill off two Dolores blockers.
Although Dolores was eventually able to win the first game 25-21, Dove Creek’s momentum carried over into the second game, which the Bulldogs won 25-21. Sloppy passing by Bears players played a role in the team’s second-game setback, as did several hard serves by Lingenfelter and her teammates.
“I think (our players’) approach is to just take as much time as we need to get it in and just hit hard,” Lingenfelter said. “We really focus on serving (in practice).”
By the time the third game of the match began, the crowd noise inside Dove Creek’s home gym began to amplify as Bulldogs football players entered the stands at the end of their practice.
As the Dove Creek faithful cheered, Dolores fans shouted answers and screamed their team’s name as excited players on both sides fed off the crowd’s energy.
After the Bulldogs captured the third game, 25-20, Hank Williams Jr.’s country classic, “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” blared over the gym’s loudspeakers and a few Dove Creek players danced to the rhythm.
While Dove Creek might have begun the fourth game with the idea that they had the match in hand, Dolores outside hitter Jordan Elder had other ideas, and she hammered down several consecutive kills to lift her team to a 25-23 victory.
With the match hanging in the balance entering the decisive fifth game, Dolores jumped out to a 3-1 lead after two kills from Elder and a Dove Creek hitting error. The Bulldogs controlled the rest of the match from then on, however, as the blue-and-gold-clad group won 14 of the match’s final 20 points to secure the victory.
“We were nervous, so nervous, and after a while, we just got out of it and decided to actually play and come back,” said Gatlin, when asked about her team’s win. “(Winning this match) is a big accomplishment. I think it will put us up in league and RPI and everything.”
Dove Creek improved to 7-1 overall and 2-0 in the San Juan Basin League with the win, while Dolores fell to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the SJBL with the loss. Next up for the Bulldogs will be a homecoming match against Norwood on Sept. 14. Dolores will play at home against Ridgway on Sept. 15.
Asked about how her team can improve in the coming weeks, Lingenfelter said that teamwork would be key.
“I think we’re still looking to come together as a unit,” the junior said. “We’re hoping to make it to state this year.”
If the match between Dolores and Dove Creek is any indication, both teams could be playing at their respective state tournaments in Denver come November.