Stepping onto the court at the for its opening match of the Class 2A State Tournament, which began Friday at the Denver Coliseum, the Dolores High School volleyball team had every right to be nervous.
Standing across the net were the Lady Bears’ opponents from Yuma High School, a team that has played in each of the past three Class 2A state finals and was ranked No. 1 in the state.
Over the course of three sets however, Dolores appeared to be anything but nervous as the Lady Bears put forth a solid effort during a 25-9, 25-21, 25-19 loss to Yuma in a match that was more competitive than the final score indicated.
Opening the first set on its heels, Dolores temporarily found its form thanks to sophomore Jordan Elder, who scored her team’s first points of this year’s state tournament with consecutive kills to cut Yuma’s lead to 4-2.
After several hard spikes by Yuma’s junior Chasey Blach, who was named second-team all-state last season and figured to earn a first-team nod this year, Yuma pulled ahead 15-7 before easily a first set that lasted about 15 minutes.
“I think that the first set, we were getting through some jitters,” Dolores head coach Gina Hollen said. “We’re out here playing at a big tournament.”
Looking to turn things around in the second set, Dolores setter Abby Jones fed several different hitters, and after a kill by senior Josie Majors, a kill by Jordan Elder and a tip by Jordan Elder, Dolores moved ahead 3-2.
An ace by Josie Majors further extended the Lady Bears’ lead to 7-4. A block and a hard kill down the line by junior Tatum Majors put Dolores ahead 14-9. Five straight points by Yuma tied the score 14-14 before Yuma eventually pulled away to win the set by four points.
“We had a lot of players involved in the second and third sets,” Hollen said. “Josie Majors had a couple of kills from the right side, and Jordan Elder (scored). My freshman, Sydney Smith, also had two kills.”
Doing their best to stay alive in the final set, the Lady Bears looked to be finding its groove after a kill by Josie Majors and a block by Cameron Elder put the Lady Bears ahead 5-4. A kill by Jordan Elder and a hitting error by Yuma later in the set capped off a 4-0 Dolores run and tied the score 17-17.
An 8-2 run by Yuma capped by a tip by senior Kenedy Roth put the match away, however, as Dolores fell to 22-3 on the season. Yuma improved to 23-1.
“The second and third sets, the girls played strong and contended,” Hollen said. “They definitely gave Yuma a run for their money.”
Dolores will play its second match of the state tournament against Rangely on Saturday about 9:15 a.m. The two teams previously played in the Class 2A Region 3 Championship match on Nov. 4. Rangely won that match in five sets.
“We know that Rangely’s middle, (Sarah Connor), is a force, and we are going to try to shut her down at the net,” Hollen said. “We’ll try to move our defense to the spots that she likes to hit to and we need to make sure that we stay aggressive (on offense).”
After noon on Friday, Yuma beat Rangely easily in three sets – 25-13, 25-8 and 25-11.