Although a loss to Rangely in the Regional championship kept Dolores from earning an automatic berth in the state tournament, the Lady Bears’ body of work over the course of the season allowed them to secure one of four wild-card spots in Colorado’s Class 2A tournament at the Denver Coliseum.
Armed with a mix of experienced seniors and talented underclassmen, Dolores will look to advance through the Class 2A state bracket at the Denver Coliseum on Nov. 10-11, while making memories that will last a lifetime.
The team’s performance at Regionals, which will be fondly remembered by fans and players in the years to come.
Lady Bears drop thriller to RangelyDuring a two-hour regional championship match against Rangely, the Dolores High School volleyball team delivered one of its finest performances in one of Colorado’s most competitive matches this season.
But despite fighting back from a two-set deficit, the Lady Bears fell just short in a 20-25, 20-25, 25-20, 25-21, 15-11 loss. The setback ended a 22-match Dolores winning streak and marked the Lady Bears’ second defeat in a season that featured a San Juan Basin League title and District Championship.
Looking nervous and tentative throughout the opening set of the championship match, Dolores fell behind 5-0 after a series of poor passes and unforced hitting errors. Although the Lady Bears found their form and tied the set at 8-8, hitting errors continued to plague Dolores during the set, which ended with a tip by Rangely senior Katelyn Brown.
Seemingly back in sync at the beginning of the second set, Dolores benefited from several hard kills by sophomore Jordan Elder, whose ability to send hard shots down the line continually stressed the Rangely defense.
After a great left-handed tip by Elder put the Lady Bears ahead 15-10, Rangely regained its form thanks to senior Sarah Conner, who smashed down several hard kills to help her team build an 18-17 lead and force a Dolores timeout.
Although the Lady Bears scored out of the timeout to tie the score at 18-18, Rangely secured the last five points of the game, including a set clinching kill by Conner to move within one set of the regional championship.
Like good teams tend to do, however, Dolores fought back with vigor and began the third set on a 7-0 run, which culminated with a massive block and subsequent scream by junior Tatum Majors and a Rangely timeout.
Three impressive blocks by senior Cameron Elder later in the third set further energized the hometown team and helped Dolores eventually win the set on a well-placed kill by senior Sierra Schwartz.
“We just have so much heart and passion for the game of volleyball,” said Cameron Elder, when asked about her team’s turnaround. “We’ve been playing since we were little, and we just want it so bad. We can play through God and for God, and that has been our motivation all season.”
Still needing to win the fourth set to even the score, Dolores pulled ahead 10-5 early. A series of passing errors by the Lady Bears allowed Rangely to climb back into the set, and with just a few points to go, Dolores found itself leading 22-21.
At that point, senior Sierra Schwartz brought Dolores fans to their feet with a perfectly placed kill that dropped in the middle of three Ridgway defenders and a second kill that caromed out of bounds of Rangely blockers.
Noise in the Dolores gym amplified when a Rangely hitting error allowed the Lady Bears to win the fourth set, and with the match even at two sets a piece and music blaring over the loud speakers, Dolores players smiled and danced.
“When there is a loud crowd, it makes it more intense,” Cameron Elder said. “There is an energy, and we can feed off of that, which is really helpful.”
Knowing that a fifth-set victory would deliver them to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, Dolores pulled ahead 1-0 on a hitting error by Rangely outside hitter Sarah Conner.
A series of passing miscues put the Lady Bears behind 2-7 however, and although Dolores eventually narrowed the gap to 11-13, the set never seemed in reach and ended when Connor smashed down a hard kill to finish things off.
With the majority of Dolores’ players in tears shortly after the match, several members of the crowd exchanged hugs and shouted encouragement to their hometown team.
Not knowing whether or not they would earn a wild-card berth in the state tournament, Cameron Elder emphasized that her team deserved to qualify based on its body of work over the course of the season.
“I think we deserve to (go to state) because we have shown our worth on the court,” Cameron Elder said. “We have won against so many teams, and we’re a very versatile team. We have the heart and we have the skill and we want (to go to state) more than anything.”
Lady Bears impressive against TellurideEven before the Lady Bears’ opening match at regionals, a capacity crowd at the Lady Bears’ gym made its presence felt with ruckus cheers that reverberated off the rafters.
The noise only intensified as Dolores, buoyed by an aggressive offensive approach and stout defense, defeated Telluride 25-14, 25-19, 22-25, 25-15.
“Our approach is just to play as hard as we can all of the time and work together,” said Dolores junior Tatum Majors. (Against Telluride), we were able to play our game and flow as a team,”
The Lady Bears’ flow was evident throughout the first set, which began with three straight Dolores points stemming in large part from quality serves by Schwartz.
A cross-court kill by Jordan Elder, a hard kill down the middle by Cameron Elder and a hard kill off the Telluride block by Jordan Elder put Dolores ahead 9-4 later in the first set as Telluride called a timeout.
An 8-0 run by Dolores behind the serving of Tatum Majors helped the Lady Bears close out a dominant first set, which, according to senior setter Abby Jones, was keyed by the team’s attack from all sides of the court.
“We have so many great hitters, Josie (Majors), Tatum (Majors), Sierra (Schwartz) and Jordan (Elder),” Jones said. “As a setter, I just need to be sure that I’m focusing on the ball and setting up all of my teammates.”
Looking to carry its momentum into the second set, Dolores received a boost from Jones’ serving, which helped the Lady Bears go out a 5-0 run en route to a 10-5 lead. An ace by Jordan Elder increased Dolores’ lead to 18-12 later in the set, and the Lady Bears before the Lady Bears closed things out after a kill by Tatum Majors and a hitting error by Telluride.
Up two sets and looking to close things out, Dolores pulled ahead 10-5 in the third game, before appearing to lose focus during a series of points that ended with the score tied 22-22. Telluride went on to win the final three points of the game thanks to a Dolores hitting error, a block by Lauren Purdy and a kill by Danika Petit.
“Whenever we don’t communicate well, we kind of get out of sorts,” said Tatum Majors, when asked about her team’s struggles during the third set. “We always seem to pull it together though, because we’re close as a team.”
Such closeness was evident throughout the fourth and final set as Dolores weathered an early storm before using a 12-0 run to turn an 11-14 deficit into a 23-14 lead. While many factors contributed to the long run, nothing played a more significant role than the serving of Tatum Majors, which consistently put Telluride players on their heels.
“When I’m serving, I just think to myself that I have to do this for our (seniors),” Tatum Majors said. “They’ve worked really hard, and we’ve all worked really hard this season.”