Wrapping up its regular season with a home match against Dove Creek on April 22, the Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball team played like a team that is primed for a long postseason run.
The result was a dominant three-set victory that saw the Lady Panthers dominate the opening game 25-13, weather a Lady Bulldogs storm and win the second game 25-22, and pull away for a 25-18 victory in the final game of the match.
With the win, M-CHS improved its perfect record to 12-0 on the season. Dove Creek fell to 9-2 on the year with the loss.
Among the many players that factored heavily into M-CHS’ dominant victory was junior Avery Wright, who smashed down several kills and made two highlight-reel digs during her team’s dominant opening set.
As the second set got underway, the Lady Panthers and the Lady Bulldogs traded points as fans of both schools clapped and cheered their favorite players on.
A 6-0 run by Dove Creek highlighted by a kill off the hands of M-CHS blockers by sophomore Lexi Gray and a block at the net by freshman Kylie Gatlin gave the Bulldogs a 19-13 lead and put the Lady Panthers on their heels.
Two nice kills by Wright and an dig midway through a long point by Lady Panthers senior Amber Wood shifted momentum, however, and after an ace by Wright off the tape on the net and a kill by senior Myka Glover off the same tape, M-CHS emerged with a three-point set victory.
“With volleyball, it’s such a momentum game,” McHenry said. “When you have a huge kill, and it goes down, it just kind of either goes quiet for a moment or goes crazy for a moment. We did a great job staying composed during the second game.”
Trailing by two sets, but by no means ready to throw in the towel, Dove Creek continued to fight during a third set that featured several competitive points and multiple impressive plays by players on both sides.
The Lady Panthers defense proved to be a difference maker, though, as Wood and Wright nearly every ball in their area and Glover, senior Kylie Lake, and senior Grace Olsen blocked Lady Bulldogs’ hitters several times at the net.
“I think the biggest thing is talk and communication,” said Wood, when asked about her team’s defense. “Our communication has gotten a lot better as a team. We do a good job of covering different spots and knowing where (our teammates) are at.”
Although M-CHS players were excited to finish their regular season undefeated, players emphasized that regular-season accolades are far from their only goal.
Currently the top-ranked Class 3A team in the state according to MaxPreps and sitting No. 5 in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s latest poll, the Lady Panthers will learn of their postseason seeding on April 26 when regional brackets are released.
“Honestly, our coach, (Joye McHenry), says that you have to want it a little less,” Devon McHenry said. “I think we want this so bad and we’re so excited about everything and sometimes our nerves get to us. Staying calm and collected and just wanted it a little less and staying steady will help us a lot, especially in the postseason.”
Dove Creek, which was the tenth-ranked Class 1A team in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s latest poll, finished its regular season 11-2 overall. Like M-CHS, the Lady Bulldogs will learn their regional seeding on April 26.