Records and statistics often times dont mean much in a rivalry matchup.
The Durango Lady Demons volleyball team went in to Tuesday nights match at Montezuma-Cortez High School unbeaten in 5A/4A Southwestern League play. In fact, Durango hadnt lost a set in conference play.
Set one? M-CHS, 25; Durango, 16.
The Lady Panthers took advantage of poor Durango serving, and seniors Amanda Chappell and Sydney Bayles spiked critical kills to keep their team in front.
Holy crap! Cortez played the best Ive seen them play in a while, said Lady Demons coach Robin Oliger. We had a hard time adjusting to them. I cant say enough, though, about how Cortez played. They played great.
Durango looked shocked and often times confused on the floor in the opening set. But good teams find ways to adjust, and Durango did that Tuesday. The Lady Demons won set two and came from behind to steal set three. M-CHS fought and scrapped with its rival, but fell 3-1 (25-16, 19-25, 24-26, 15-25).
It was definitely a team effort, and I feel like my girls are peaking when they need to, Lady Panthers coach Barbara Chappell said. Durango is a tough team. Theyre first in our league, theyre undefeated. I dont think a team has taken them four games, yet. For us to take them four games, I feel our girls stepped up big time.
The Lady Panthers took the court on fire, scoring five of the first seven points in the first frame, while feeding off the home crowd energy.
M-CHS (6-9, 2-4 4A SL) capitalized on every mistake and built a 14-6 lead. Durango (11-4, 6-0 4A SL) never got within six the rest of the set. Sloan Lovett spiked multiple kills to keep her bunch from the east in it. But position and serving errors made it hard for Oligers team to come back. The Lady Demons totaled 18 missed serves in the match.
After the teams switched sides for set two, Durango showed why its in first-place, quickly scoring the first three points.
M-CHS stayed close for a bit. Trailing 13-9, the Lady Panthers scored three of the next four to pull within 14-12.
However, that was as close as the Lady Panthers would get. Lovetts spike and a few M-CHS mistakes jolted Durango to a 17-12 lead. M-CHS cut it to 23-19, but two errors gave the set to the visitors.
The epic third set was and an old fashioned nailbiter, to say the least. Nether squad led by more than three points and tempers flared, as the Lady Demons were carded for arguing with an official.
Durango led most of the stanza, but the Lady Panthers did not back down. Consecutive kills by Lovett gave Durango a 13-10 advantage. Then, an assisted block by Cheyenne Mortensen and Nickelle Oliver, and an Abby Engel serving ace brought the Lady Panthers to within one at 13-12.
M-CHS tied it at 14 following a hit out of bounds by Bella Bernazzani and a serving ace by Mortensen. The teams traded two points apiece to make 16-16 and were later knotted at 19 and 21. The Lady Panthers earned their first lead after an Oliger timeout. Durango committed an error and Bayles notched a kill to make it 23-21 M-CHS. A serving error by Lovett later made the score 24-22 for M-CHS.
The Lady Panthers had the ball for a chance at match point and the crowd was ready to explode. A position error, though, gave Durango the point and the ball. The set was tied again at 24 when McKenna Franzen hit a kill. Tiffany Morlans serving ace, coupled with another Franzen kill, gave the Lady Demons the set and match lead.
Theyve got tall girls up the middle. They got some nice passes out of it, and they hit over our block. It was just a matter of, they got there before we did, said Barb Chappell about Durango winning the third set. Our girls fought hard. I felt like they played a really good set. I really do.
M-CHS continued to push back in set four, matching Durango the first seven points. The Lady Panthers later trailed just 13-12, but thats when the Lady Demons exorcised any hopes for a comeback. Durango reeled off eight straight behind Lovett, Franzen and Natalie Bulen.
Amanda Chappell and Bayles, as well as youngsters Oliver and Engel, tried to keep the Lady Panthers within striking distance. Durango, eventually, hung on for another win.
Bayles had a M-CHS team high eight kills to go with 11 digs.
As a team, we really pulled it together. We did really good. Im so proud of us, said Bayles, a senior. We pushed hard. When they pushed us, we didnt take it. We pushed back. It really makes a difference in our level of play. Its frustrating to lose it that close, but we did really good at not handing it over.
Mortensen recorded a team high 19 assists, while Engel, Danielle Waltman and Amanda Chappell had 17, 13 and 12 digs.
Durango was led by Bulens 50 assists and Lovetts 18 kills. Franzen tallied a double-double of 15 kills and 14 digs.
I think once we were able to get into a rhythm, thats when we were able to overcome some of the things that we were fighting against, Oliger said.
M-CHS will continue its six-match home stand to conclude the regular season, welcoming conference foes Fruita Monument and Grand Junction on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. and 11 a.m.
The match Friday against the Lady Wildcats will be Pink/Parent Night, and the CHSAA Breast Cancer Awareness Game. Players have dedicated the match to M-CHS, School Resource Officer, Diane Fox, who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at email@example.com.