Prior to their home matchup against Ignacio on Oct. 16, members of the Dolores High School volleyball team stood near center court and spoke about the importance of their team’s six seniors.
Tawnee Benavidez, Kortni Spurlock, Abby Jones, Addie Jones, Tatum Majors and Cameron Schafer stood by and listened and after listening to their teammates’ words, the tight-knit group hugged and shed tears.
Once the emotional moment passed however, the Lady Bears were all business as players took the court and dispatched of Ignacio in dominant fashion by a scores of 25-18, 25-19, 25-20. With the win, Dolores improved to 11-3 overall on the season and took one step closer to its ultimate goal of appearing in the Class 2A State Tournament for the second consecutive year.
“I’ve been playing volleyball with these girls since I was in third or fourth grade,” Spurlock said. “It has been a really fun experience to just grow. We’re more of a family than a team, which is really great.”
Opening the match with a clear plan in mind, the Lady Bears found ways to feed their many talented hitters and eventually seized a 10-5 lead after a brilliant kill by Sydney Smith down the line that forced an Ignacio timeout.
An ace by Abby Jones later in the game put Dolores ahead 15-9 and after a string of competitive points during which both teams traded kills, Majors ended the first set with one of the hardest kills of the entire match.
Although Dolores briefly lost its momentum early in the second game, the team regained its composure thanks to a string of solid serves by Smith and eventually built a 17-12 lead after a kill by junior Jordan Elder.
Two more kills by Elder later in the set allowed Dolores to take a 24-19 lead and thanks to a scoring error by officials midway through the set, the scoreboard read 25-19 and the second game ended with momentum on the Lady Bears’ side.
“The key (for our team) was intensity,” Elder said. “When we get down on ourselves or we have low energy, we start to lag. When we have high energy and congratulate each other after every point, that’s when we start to pick it up.”
Seemingly intent on closing out the match in three sets, Dolores players continued to hammer the ball before eventually pulling ahead 18-12 after a kill by Majors that nearly decapitated Ignacio senior Kiana Valdez.
Top-notch defense was also on full display for the Lady Bears as players consistently hustled to open areas of the court and hit the floor on several occasions to dig out powerful kill attempts by Ignacio.
“You can practice digging as much as you want, but it’s so much different in a game,” Spurlock said. “In a game, you have to go all out and you sacrifice your body to get that ball up.”
Now roughly two weeks away from the end of their regular season, Dolores will look to keep its nine-game unbeaten streak alive when it faces off against Telluride at home on Oct. 20. Since losing to Dove Creek on Sept. 11, the Lady Bears have not dropped a set and players are hoping to keep that streak alive.
“Losing to Dove Creek was both a really hard thing for our team and a motivator,” Elder explained. “It made us want to win the rest of the season so we could progress to our ultimate goal of state. When we get in a pattern of winning, we really can’t get out of it.”
“We’re going to have to bust our butts (to make state),” Spurlock added. “We have to win all the rest of our games and we’re going to have to play a really tough team and beat them to go to state. It’s going to be challenging, but I think that we can do it.”
If current trends continue, there is no reason to believe that Dolores will not be competing for a state championship at Colorado’s most prestigious high school tournament.