Talk about an early season statement. Opening the season against the perennially tough Shiprock Chieftains on Aug. 29, the Dolores Lady Bears volleyball team produced a scintillating performance in route to a dominant victory.
From the very start, the Lady Bears looked strong, winning the match's first point following a vicious spike by junior Elana Bernholtz. After finally allowing the Chieftains to score on the set's fourth point, the Lady Bears began to open things up.
Behind impressive serving from junior Taylor Elder, the Lady Bears extended their lead to 18-5 before eventually winning the first set by a score of 25 to 11.
Speaking about the importance of her team's strong start in the first set, Dolores head coach Gina Hollen said, (Getting off to the fast start) was huge. Playing behind or having to play catch-up is hard. You get down and sometimes it's hard to get back up."
Showing no signs of a let down following their first set victory, the Lady Bears continued working together to start the second set. After jumping out to a 5-1 lead on a number of strong serves by senior Ali Umberger, it looked as if the Lady Bears would once again enjoy an easy set victory.
The Chieftains fought back, however, eventually closing the gap to 12-9, at which point Hollen called a timeout. Hollen's words during the timeout proved to be effective as Dolores began dictating play, reeling off 8 straight points before eventually winning the second set, 25-10.
"(During the timeout), I told the team to just control the ball and get back to playing our game and not their game," explained Hollen. "We got a little rattled, but we refocused."
"(Hollen) told us to work together and become a team again," said sophomore Courtney Blackmer. "She told us to talk a lot more. We were definitely not talking that game."
Looking to close out the match with a third set victory, the Lady Bears initially met resistance from the clearly desperate Shiprock team. After a number of close opening points, the Lady Bears found themselves trailing 13-15 and in desperate need of a boost.
That boost came in the form of several impressive kills from Blackmer, which helped the Lady Bears regain and extend their lead to 21-17. After several competitive points, the Lady Bears eventually closed out the set 25-20 to secure the match victory.
"It was huge (to close out the match in three sets)," said Hollen. "The more volleyball you play, the more you get tired and the more tired you get, the more mistakes you make."
Overall, Hollen was clearly pleased with her team's performance, stating, "We controlled the ball really well and the girls talked really well. I am very happy with how we played."
"Playing at home was exciting," added Blackmer. "It was definitely nerve-racking."
Next on the schedule for the Lady Bears is the Cortez Tournament, scheduled for Sept. 7. Local teams participating in the Cortez Tournament include Montezuma-Cortez High School, Dove Creek High School and Mancos High School.