Even if it meant squaring off with fellow 2A/1A San Juan Basin League front-runner Mancos, Lacey Murphy seemed relieved after visiting Ignacio Saturday that Dove Creek’s varsity would at last again play inside The DawgHouse.
“We’ve had 11 road games and one home game so far. So I think we’re just a little worn out,” she said, following a slow-start, fast-finish 15-25, 27-25, 25-21, 25-13 victory inside IHS Gymnasium. “If I’m being honest, it’ll be nice to not travel. We’ll have Mancos at home on Tuesday, and they got us the first time so we’ll see what happens this time!”
Results were unavailable before Wednesday’s print edition of The Journal went to press.
“The first one was our ‘league’ game with them,” Murphy explained, referring to the 1A Bulldogs’ 27-25, 19-25, 23-25, 25-17, 12-15 loss to the 2A Jays back on Aug. 22, “so this one just … no matter what, it helps our RPI when we play the more competitive teams in our league. And then we have another home game on Friday.”
That match will be against 1A Norwood, whom Dove Creek swept 25-14, 25-12, 25-16 up in San Miguel County the night before traveling all the way back south and east to La Plata County to play IHS – comparatively well-rested after not having seen action since placing second at the Denver Christian Invitational seven calendar days earlier – the next afternoon.
And from the start of the match, the hosting Volleycats looked plenty prepared to build upon a quality loss to reigning 2022 Class 2A State Champion Sedgwick County in the aforementioned tournament’s finale.
“It was really close, up until, like, 10 points or something,” Ignacio senior Kacey Brown said, admitting the opening stanza went by like a blur. “And then we just got, like, a burst of energy and got a good lead.”
“We’ve just got to keep fighting; I think that’s what helped us out at that tournament and in Kremmling (at the MHS-conquered West Grand Invitational),” she continued. “We’ve just got to … be very scrappy; that’s what we’re known for.”
Bouncing back in Game 2, Dove Creek (10-2 overall; 3-1 SJBL, 2-0 1A SJBL) took an 8-7 lead and built it up to as great as 19-14 before Ignacio (7-4; 0-1 SJBL, 0-1 2A SJBL) gained the upper hand, albeit a shaky one. Still, the Bulldogs appeared to reach game point first at 24-22 after Brown threaded a spike between multiple DCHS hands and out of bounds long.
The officials, however, weren’t as positive the ball hadn’t been touched and called for a replay of the point, which the ’Cats earned when Brown tooled a kill off Dove Creek’s block. Freshman setter Kelly Sirios then somehow blocked DCHS junior Ralynn Hickman 1-on-1, only to see Hickman respond with a more-vicious swing and kill the next exchange. Ignacio regained a 25-24 lead via a kill by junior Ollyvia Howe, but DCHS swiped a match-tying win via a kill by senior setter Kalie Gatlin, an IHS serve-reception error off Gatlin’s serve, and a failed Sirios pass meant for Howe.
Beginning with a Brown block of Hickman, Ignacio raced out to a 6-1 lead in Game 3, but the Bulldogs fought back to tie at 10-all, then went up 11-10 and never looked back. IHS head coach Jennifer Seibel called a timeout with her side down 24-20, and senior middle Solymar Cosio made the pause pay dividends with an optimistic kill. Senior Kylie Gatlin, however, then put DCHS up 2-1 in the contest with a kill past Cosio’s block.
IHS’ hopes faded fast in Game 4; after going up 1-0 and 2-1, the ’Cats never again led. Dove Creek strung together six immediate go-ahead points, then later swelled their lead to 15-5 via another six-point run. Seibel called a desperate timeout with Ignacio down 23-13, but Hickman secured DCHS’ ninth out-of-town triumph with back-to-back service aces of senior Maci Barnes.
“We definitely didn’t show up the first set; that was a problem … slowly getting into the second,” said Murphy. “We were trying to panic and … weren’t focusing on our game. They weren’t playing like themselves. So once we finally got into a rhythm and started thinking instead of panicking, finding the holes and seeing (Ignacio’s) block …. It tends to go in our favor when you have girls who can hit.”