The roars inside gymnasiums across Colorado will be a little more raucous this weekend, as the state’s best volleyball teams from all five classifications convene at various sites, vying to earn a coveted place in the state tournament. Both Dolores and Dove Creek, on the strength of a dominant run through the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, have earned rights to host a three-team regional this Saturday.
Dolores primed for regionalsThe Bears (19-4, 12-0 SJBL), led by head coach Gina Hollen, were in a league of their own during conference play, conceding only five sets the entire regular season in the SJBL, en route to a perfect 12-0 mark. After dropping their first three matches of the campaign, Dolores overpowered opposition behind senior middle hitter Jordan Elder, who led the Bear attack with a team-best 226 kills and stunning .425 hitting percentage.
Dolores went unbeaten during September and October before wrapping up their regular season with a 3-1 team record in a deep field at the season-ending Gunnison tournament. The outside hitting tandem of sophomore Erin Brown and junior Sydney Smith, who combined for over 360 kills, make the Dolores front line one of the best in the 2A classification.
This year, the backline has been anchored by junior libero Akira Edwards, who leads the team in digs, while a pair of underclassmen, sophomore Kamri Willbanks and freshman Carlie McClellan, have split time as setter, dishing out over 550 assists this year.
Dolores enters the postseason seeking to return to the 2A State Tournament after a one-year hiatus, having missed out in heartbreaking fashion last year. The Bears own the No. 10 seed, and will face off against No. 27 seed Soroco High School (12-8), which enters the field following a fifth-place finish in the 2A/1A Western Slope League. The round robin also includes a meeting with No. 15 seed Clear Creek (15-8), a fifth-place squad out of the 2A/1A Mile High League. The Bears will take on Soroco at 9 a.m. at Montezuma-Cortez High School, to be followed with their meeting against the Golddiggers about 1 p.m.
Bulldogs aim for return to stageFew teams in the state can match the impressive resume that the Dove Creek Bulldogs have compiled this year. Aiming for their second straight trip to the 1A State Tournament, Dove Creek dominated competition across the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League, suffering its only defeat of the season to Dolores.
The Bulldogs (20-1, 10-1 SJBL) have a premier outside hitter to thank for their success, as senior Cassie Gatlin has put together a campaign to remember. She leads the team in kills (217), aces (32), and digs (298).
While Gatlin headlines the attack, the story of the Bulldogs’ success comes from their tremendous balance, with five players accumulating more than 60 kills and four players with at least 30 blocks.
Gatlin and fellow seniors Kiara Lingenfelter and Taylor Hickman guide a tournament-experienced squad into the 1A Region E tournament, hosting La Veta (22-1) and familiar district opponent North Park (6-15). The Bulldogs first face off with a repeat meeting against the Wildcats, hoping they can duplicate a 3-0 victory from their district tournament championship run.
After their 10 a.m. contest against North Park, at 2 p.m. the Bulldogs face a dangerous La Veta squad, who have only dropped five sets all season, three of which came in their lone loss of the campaign in the district championship match.
Panthers hope to continue recent successM-CHS might be really finding their rhythm at the best time. Winners of seven of their final eight matches of the regular season, the Panthers (13-7, 4-6 3A IML) storm into the 3A Region 7 tournament riding momentum in hopes that they can go toe-to-toe with a pair of strong opponents.
They enter the tournament as the No. 30 seed, and will meet regional host No. 7 Lamar at 4 p.m. The Savages (16-5), who finished as runner-up in the 3A Tri-Peaks League, will have to contend with the Panther hitting combo of junior Myka Glover and sophomore Avery Wright, who are ranked first and second for the Panthers in kills, hitting percentage and aces.
Setter Leigha Comisky will be busy setting up the front line, as she leads a junior-heavy Panthers squad into the Lamar Community Building on Saturday evening. M-CHS will also face No. 18 seed Platte Valley (14-9), the third-place finisher in the 3A Patriot League.
Matches for Dolores, Dove Creek, and Montezuma-Cortez are all slated for Saturday, Nov. 9, with state qualifiers moving on to the Denver Coliseum for the state championships the weekend of Nov. 14-16.