The Mancos volleyball team returned to the CHSAA 2A State Volleyball Championships for the fifth consecutive year.
On Friday and Saturday at the Denver Coliseum, the Lady Bluejays got off to a rough start with a three-set loss to Swink (15-25, 18-25, 23-25).
However, Mancos showed it belonged among Colorados best and knocked off 2A state champion Lutheran in set one Friday afternoon. The Lady Bluejays fought and scrapped with Lutheran (25-4), but the Lady Lions outlasted Mancos the rest of the match. The Lady Bluejays fell 3-1 (25-23, 16-25, 20-25, 15-25). Lutheran did not lose another set en route to its first state championship.
We ended up being the only one to take a set from them. After losing to Swink, the kids were still fired up, Mancos coach Ramona Shepherd said. We came back and almost won the third one (set). The whole team picked it up in that match. Thats a marker for us. You cant tell me we didnt belong up there. We competed. We came away from the Lutheran match thinking we could have won that.
Senior captain outside hitter/middle blocker Aimee Johnson recorded 21 kills and 20 serve receives against Lutheran. She had a double-double of 10 kills and 10 digs against Swink (24-6).
Unfortunately, the Lutheran loss eliminated Mancos (20-7) from advancing to the next round. But the Lady Bluejays displayed great pride in their final best-of-three-set match with Dayspring Christian (22-5).
Mancos won the first set, but relinquished late leads in sets two and three, losing a heartbreaker, 2-1 (25-21, 23-25, 23-25).
We win the first one. We were ahead in the third one, 20-15, but we just couldnt hang on, Shepherd said. We just made too many mistakes. It was hard to lose that one. Because we had that won.
The Lady Bluejays had won 11 straight matches heading into the state tournament, including winning their second ever regional tournament title. It was the first outright regional championship in school history. Overall, it was one of the greatest seasons in Mancos High School history, but Shepherd is still seeking that first state tournament win.
In the earlier years, I was happy to be there. A lot of my teams were lucky to be there, she said. This is one of those years, I come away disappointed. We could have won some matches up there. For some reason, we just couldnt pull it out.
Shepherd had great play from her starting freshmen Courtney Colyer, Jessica Willburn and Andie Paschal. Not to mention juniors Megan Hess and Kayla Goff will return. Shepherds program definitely looks bright for the future.
I do have a lot of freshmen. They have a lot of courage and I was impressed with their play at that level, Shepherd said. She (Colyer) rehabbed (a sprained ankle) to the best of her abilities, but she hobbled a lot. She played with a lot of courage. I was proud of her.
Shepherd then added.
I have been playing three freshmen all year and all three produced really well at state. They just didnt seem scared at all, she said. We did not lose because the freshmen were intimidated. We just made mistakes and it got the better of us.
Mancos will lose a four year starter in Johnson, and senior co-captain setter Erica Blackburn and senior opposite hitter Jacey Cox.
I lose Erica, a very good setter, who has been a great captain and really helped the young kids, Shepherd said. I lose Jacey, whos lived here her entire life. Shes been a great role model for the kids on and off the court.
Johnson, too, will be hard to replace.
Ive been really close to her for seven years. I started coaching her in middle school, Shepherd said. In the four years she has played, she has grown up a lot. Its been an interesting ride. She has put in more time in the sport of volleyball than anyone Ive coached. Because shes put in the time, shes talented. Ive had a lot of really good athletes come out of Mancos, but none had put the time in that she has. I adore her.
Johnson was named to the senior volleyball Colorado All-State teams. She will compete for the 2A Blue team in the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-Star game against the Red team on Sunday at Arvada West High School. Johnson will also compete in the 56th annual Colorado High School Coaches Association All-State games in June at Adams State College in Alamosa.
Reach Bobby Abplanalp at firstname.lastname@example.org.