A back door can be as good an entryway as a front door.
It only depends on a person’s perspective unless that person remains locked out.
Monday morning, the Dove Creek Lady Bulldogs learned that a win over lowly Walden-based North Park and a loss to powerhouse La Veta at the Dove Creek-hosted Class 1A-Region E Tournament wasn’t enough to earn wild-card berth into the 2019 state volleyball tournament.
At the end of the regular season, Dove Creek High School (21-2 overall) was a Top 10 team in RPI, but after Saturday’s action had slipped to 11th — still ahead of No. 12 Haxtun, though. And with the championships’ ninth through 12th qualifiers to be determined by RPI ratings, a backdoor inclusion was a possibility for Jody Gardner’s crew.
However, both Huxton and No. 13 Wiley both triumphed at their regionals, as did No. 9 Mosca Sangre de Cristo. And with the top 5 — Merino, Kit Carson, Genoa-Hugo/Karval, Fleming, LVHS — all having won regional crowns, Dove Creek ended up the highest-rated squad denied admission to the tournament Nov. 14-16.
Receiving the at-large bids, unfortunately, were Briggsdale (20-7), South Baca County (20-4), Springfield (16-6), and Otis (16-8) — sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively, on the final RPI ladder Sunday night.
“Yeah, it’s crazy,” said Dove Creek setter Taylor Hickman. “I couldn’t ask for a better team, and ending my senior year hosting regionals for the third time. ... I couldn’t ask for any better.”
“None of us even thought we were going to play them,” senior outside/middle hitter Cassie Gatlin said, regarding La Veta. “We all thought we were going to be playing Sangre, but then there was that big upset! (The Lady Thunderbirds stunned La Veta 3-1 in the previous weekend’s District 6 Tournament finale.) So we were, like, pretty nervous for everything.”
But other than in a somewhat shaky Game 3 of a 25-16, 25-12, 25-22 rout of North Park — polished off by a shot kill by freshman reserve Trista Barnett, a service ace by sophomore Shania Kibel, and a clean kill by junior Grace Hatfield — Dove Creek’s nerves weren’t very visible.
Despite lacking many of their rowdiest supporters, including the Dove Creek football team, which was playing in the state playoffs in Gypsum, the Lady Bulldogs raced out to a 7-3 lead.
Trailing 13-10 after a Dove Creek serve sailed long, La Veta tied it up with a kill by senior outside hitter Nya Sciacca and two stuffs by Desirae Ortivez at the net.
Ortivez then put the guests ahead with a tip of a Mary Goins set, and although Dove Creek managed a tie at 17, La Veta took command. Consecutive Sciacca kills upped the Lady Redskins’ lead to 22-19, and despite a harsh Gatlin put-away, La Veta booked a 25-20 win.
“Dove Creek that first set, they were putting it to us point-to-point,” said LVHS head coach Amber Huff. “And I appreciate them doing that because that’s what my girls need to get better. We were super-excited to see that competition.”
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and try to work with that,” Hickman said. “I think our scrappiness is definitely to our advantage. Teams don’t expect that.”
La Veta’s’ early 5-0 lead in Game 2 would balloon to 20-10, and later to as great as 24-13. Dove Creek would stave off game point three times — via a Gatlin kill, a Sciacca swing into the strings and an error by La Veta’s Aryanna Flores before Sciacca stuffed down an over-pass for a 2-0 lead in the best of five sets.
And after a 3-0 start in Game 3, which swelled to 10-2 via consecutive Ortivez kills, there was no doubting the Lady Redskins were on a roll. Gardner burned a timeout down 16-6, but La Veta (24-1) cruised to match point, 24-9, via an ace through the net by senior reserve Anna Montalbano.
Dove Creek stayed alive for another rally, but Hickman then netted a serve for La Veta’s 25-20, 25-16, 25-10 conquest.
“We came out ready to play, but so did Dove Creek,” declared Huff.
“We realized that we were dropping in our intensity,” Dove Creek senior Kiara Lingenfelter said. “But I think no matter how bad we’re playing, we still love to be out there ... as long as we can, doing the best that we can.”
“I don’t feel like we necessarily played to our potential. It was like one of those early morning games no one likes,” said Gatlin. “We’re pretty satisfied, but we’re not satisfied enough.”