A slugfest ensued last Saturday in Dove Creek.
A back-and-forth volleyball match between San Juan Basin League rivals left fans on both sides on the edge of their seats, and perhaps wanting more.
Ultimately in the end, one team celebrated and one team suffered.
With the match even 2-2, the fifth and deciding set saw six lead changes and six ties. Visiting Mancos was led by its senior captain Aimee Johnson. But when it mattered most, the Lady Bluejays underclassmen stepped up in the last set on the way to a Mancos win.
Dove Creek led 10-7 before junior Megan Hess and freshman Andie Paschal spiked kills to cut the deficit to 10-9. Four of the nine Mancos points were Johnson kills.
I said, Aimees been here for you. You know what? Her shoulder is killing her. You got to step it up, Mancos coach Ramona Shepherd said.
The young players continued to push against a young Lady Bulldogs squad. Dove Creek had a 13-12 lead, but Mancos senior Jacey Cox tied it up with a kill. With Johnson nursing her fatigued, sore right shoulder, the outside hitter mustered one more kill that bounced over the net. On the serve, freshman Courtney Colyer scored the match point with a serving ace, as the Lady Bluejays huddled and cheered the 3-2 (24-26, 25-13, 25-22, 20-25, 15-13) victory.
Thank God, Johnson said about the win. I was so proud in that fifth set. It was so amazing. They (her young teammates) listened and did exactly what she (Shepherd) said. Were all so proud.
Both Mancos (14-4, 10-3 2A SJBL) and Dove Creek (11-8, 7-4, 1A SJBL) each played earlier in the day and both beat Ridgway in straight sets. Each squad was wearing out by the end of the hard fought match to conclude the evening.
I felt the girls played really good, Lady Bulldogs coach Scott Knuckles said. We kind of let them get away in the second set, but they just dug deeper than they ever dug before.
Dove Creek rallied to win the first set, which dramatically changed the complexion of the match. Mancos led 24-20 and were seemingly in control to take an early lead in the match. But sophomores Shelbie Knuckles and Madison Young had other plans.
We really wanted to win our last home game for the seniors, Shelbie Knuckles said.
A Mancos hit out of bounds, a Shelbie Knuckles kill, a Jessica Heaton serving ace and a Young kill tied things at 24. After a Mancos timeout, Young tipped the go-ahead kill, and Heaton, a senior, finished off the comeback with a kill of her own. The 26-24 Dove Creek win riled up the home fans and gave the Lady Bulldogs a new level of confidence.
Madison and Shelbie played the front row really good, Scott Knuckles said. They started double teaming Shelbie on the outside, so I moved her to middle. It throws them off a little bit and she gets a couple quick points right there.
The Lady Bluejays responded in the second set. Dove Creek took an early 6-2 lead, but the visitors then scored eight straight to take the lead for good, posting a 12-point win.
Mancos really seized momentum taking a 2-1 match lead by holding off Dove Creek in the third set. A Shelbie Knuckles kill brought her team to within 23-21, but a Cori Guynes serving error followed by a Johnson kill gave the Lady Bluejays the win.
We got upset after we lost that first game. Had we won that first game, we might have taken them in three. I dont know, Shepherd said. Dove Creek is definitely better. I told the girls, I know theyve improved.
Mancos again failed to close out the pesky Lady Bulldogs in set four. Dove Creek led by as many as seven and Jessica Guynes serving ace gave her team a 20-14 lead. The sophomore has had a very strong season serving the ball, she recorded a streak of 111 consecutive serves during the year that ended on Oct. 15.
Johnson tried to will her team back, posting kill after kill. Although her effort wasnt quite enough to win the set, it gave the Lady Bluejays a much needed emotional boost to eke out a win in the deciding fifth set.
A tough road win in a hostile environment is something Johnson feels will help the team going forward.
Mentally, it kind of throws us off, she said about the tough Dove Creek crowd. But, we look up and see each other, and were there for each other. Were a big family. Everyones supporting one another. Its not like were alone out there. We have each other.
Johnson had a season high 40 kills and 35 digs to go with 28 serve receives for a 2.83 receive average, and four blocks and four deflections. Senior Erica Blackburn recorded a double-double of 31 digs and 51 assists for an average of 32 percent with a total of 146 sets. Paschal tallied seven kills and an attack average of 25 percent. Colyer also had seven kills, 25 serve receives for a pass average of 2.39 and 19 digs.
I was pleased with the overall team effort that stood behind the seniors when they needed it most, Shepherd said. With Jacey Cox not feeling well and Aimee having some arm soreness, I couldnt have asked for anything more.
Shelbie Knuckles led Dove Creek with a double-double of 20 kills and 24 digs, while Young scored her own double-double of 13 kills and 24 digs. Heaton had a double-double with 35 assists and 12 digs. Morgan McCourt had a team high 26 digs. Jessica Guynes and Kali Fisher chipped in 12 and 11 digs respectively.
We just didnt pull it out, Shelbie Knuckles said. It would have helped if we won our last game, but it really helps us that we know we can beat teams like this. Teams that are this strong.
Dove Creek will head to Olathe High School on Friday to play in the 1A District-1 tournament versus the winner of Ouray and North Park at 2:45 p.m. The Lady Bulldogs will then take on Vail Christian at 4 p.m.
Mancos hosted Norwood to conclude the regular season on Tuesday night. The Lady Bluejays won another five-setter, 3-2 (25-19, 14-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-10). Mancos split the season series with Norwood.
The Lady Bluejays will play Ignacio, Ridgway and Telluride in the 2A District-3 tournament at Dolores Saturday at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Mancos is the two-seed.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.