When Dolores High School’s Jordan Elder was rotated out during the Colorado 2A state volleyball tournament, opponents took notice.
And they took advantage of the 6-foot-2 senior’s absence to win points and ultimately end the Bears’ season during double-elimination play Nov. 14-16 at the Denver Coliseum.
“We obviously wanted to win ... at state, but we fought hard, and that’s all we can ask for,” said sophomore Erin Brown. “We grew a lot, and our team just really came together at the end of the season. This is what we wanted.”
Senior Madison Rodriguez agreed.
“Honestly, at the beginning of the season, when we were starting out as a new team with a lot of new players, we didn’t even think we’d make it this far,” she said.
Elder’s absence was felt during the consolation match against Kremmling’s West Grand. After a kill to bring Dolores back to 16-11 in Game 4 , Elder wasn’t heard from again until a kill shot sailed out of bounds, giving West Grand a 25-17 win and sending the match to the Game 5 tiebreaker.
After Mustang junior Josy Wheatley began Game 5 serving long, Elder gave the Bears a 3-2 lead with a spike. West Grand senior Emma DeSanti, however, tied it up with a push shot to the deep corner, and sophomore Erin Brown countered with a kill from Dolores’ back row.
After West Grand responded with three unanswered points, Dolores head coach Gina Hollen called a timeout.
Unfazed, West Grand downed another ball after the restart, and a Dolores net violation increased West Grand’s lead to 9-5. Back-to-back net violations and a netted attack kept the Bears in contention with the score 11-8.
But after another Hollen timeout, Erin Brown hammered the ball just wide. An Elder kill brought Dolores back to 12-11, but West Grand countered with a cross-court spike off Sydney Smith.
Elder netted her next swing but helped Dolores stave off match point by disposing of a West Grand over-pass for what ended up being her final prep-level put-away. Emma DeSanti finalized a 25-23, 15-25, 9-25, 25-17, 15-12 come-from-behind victory with a kill off the Bears’ block.
“We knew that we were going to have a battle today, and we fought,” Brown said.
Freshman Carlie McClellan called their seasonlong effort “a constant push. Don’t back down, give up on anything,” she said.
That attitude got the Bears off to a flying start Thursday against Fowler. The Bears took their first true lead at 9-7 and except for hiccups at 17-17 and 18-18 never lost it en route to a 25-21 win.
A 9-0 run took the Grizzlies to a 25-21 victory in Game 2, and consecutive kills from 5-foot-9 sophomore Emily Flanscha put Fowler on track in Game 3 for a wire-to-wire win at 25-20.
In Game 4, Fowler clung to tenuous leads before Dolores forged ahead 8-7 on an Akira Edwards ace. Elder then roofed an over-pass, and Fowler junior Ryanna Pruett pushed a tip wide, swelling the Bears’ lead to 10-7.
But the Region 8 champs recovered to tie at 11 and 13 when Flanscha managed a confidence-boosting block on Elder. Sophomore Tannice Wetzel then put down consecutive kills, but Elder struck back with a kill and an ace, and sophomore Ashaunee Begay scored with a block to put Dolores ahead 16-15.
Fowler pulled even at 17 and 18 points before surging ahead for good at 19-18 – part of a 7-0 burst that forced a match point at 24-18.
Brown kept the Bears alive with two kills, but a botched Bears tip fell into the net and awarded the 21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 25-20 verdict to Fowler.
Fowler ended up 20-9 overall with wins over Dolores and Del Norte and losses to Denver Christian and Wiggins.
West Grand (23-6) also broke even at state with wins over Del Norte and Dolores and losses to Limon and Simla.
In the end, No. 1 Denver Christian (29-0) would win its first 2A crown by whacking Wiggins 25-13, 25-19, 25-10 and then defeating No. 2 Limon 25-14, 20-25, 25-15, 25-10.