What began as a competitive match between the Dove Creek High School and Mancos High School volleyball teams ended with Bulldogs players cheering and Bluejays players rushing toward their locker room with their heads down.
It’s fair to say that Dove Creek’s 25-21, 25-20, 25-11 victory over Mancos was a statement victory for the blue-and-gold-clad team, and shortly after the match concluded, Bulldogs’ players spoke of the importance of their win.
“I think (the Bluejays) are becoming our new rivals,” said Dove Creek sophomore Grace Hatfield. “(Mancos) is close to (Dove Creek), and we want to beat them all the time. We want to dominate.”
While domination was certainly a goal for the Bulldogs heading into the match, the team’s first-set performance was anything but dominant as both teams battled through several competitive points that could have gone either way.
Dove Creek’s defense proved to be the difference down the stretch however, as Mancos failed to convert key opportunities, and players became frustrated by the Bulldogs’ ability to dig balls and extend points.
“They don’t let the ball drop,” Mancos head coach Brittany Lang said. “They’re not afraid to hit the ground.”
Hoping to rebound from their first-game setback with a strong start to game two, Mancos players came out on fire and built a 4-1 lead, thanks in large part to three hard serves by junior Magdalena Hall.
The Bulldogs battled back however, as junior Cassie Gatlin began to find her swing and hammered down several kills into the open court. After tying the game 13-13, Dove Creek won 11 of the next 16 points en route to a 24-18 lead and eventual game victory.
“I feel like we communicated, and I think that really helps a lot,” Dove Creek senior Breea Meyer said. “We have to get loud, and when we get loud, we start to get up, and we start hitting harder.”
Giving credence to Meyer’s words, the Bulldogs’ final game performance was a thing of beauty as the team began to fire on all cylinders and raced to a 10-4 lead. A hard kill and a block by Meyer put Dove Creek ahead 15-10, and after another block and kill by Meyer later in the game, the Bulldogs found themselves leading 24-10.
“I think once my first (kill) gets done, it just pumps me up,” said Meyer, when asked about her performance in the final game. “It keeps going after that.”
After Dove Creek won the final match, Mancos players quickly shook hands and headed into their locker room. Ten minutes later, Lang emerged from the locker room and did not mince words when asked about her team’s performance.
“When teams don’t talk, they don’t win,” Lang said. “No talk leads to no trust. There was a lack of trust, and we played in pockets of independence rather than tenacious collaboration.”
With their slip-up, the Bluejays’ record dropped to 4-5 overall and 3-2 in the San Juan Basin League. The Bulldogs improved to 11-1 overall and 6-0 in the San Juan Basin League with the win.
Next up for Dove Creek will be a home matchup against Telluride on Oct. 2. Mancos’ next match was scheduled for Thursday in Norwood.