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Dove Creek in prime position for state wild card berth

Elise Galbraith and Avery Wright go up to block a spike by Hailey Higgins in this file photo. Mancos, Montezuma Cortez and Dolores bowed out of regional volleyball tournaments this weekend; Dove Creek remains in the hunt for a state wildcard berth.
Panthers, Bluejays and Bears bow out in regional rounds

In a calendar year that may go down as one of the best for local volleyball programs, the fall campaign saw all four local schools earn a spot in regional tournaments.

After Montezuma-Cortez raced all the way to the semifinals of the 3A state tournament during the spring, the Panthers, along with Mancos, Dolores, and Dove Creek traversed across the state in search of another state tournament berth.

A repeat trip for the Panthers, under first-year head coach Caroline Glover, was not in the cards this season, however, as M-CHS paired up with Eaton and Peak to Peak in their regional pod. Entering as the No. 18 seed in the 3A regional tournament, the Panthers topped No. 30 Peak to Peak in their opener, 3-2, to set up a regional title match with No. 7 Eaton, the regional hosts.

After their five-setter against the Pumas, the Panthers ran out of steam against the Reds, dropping the match 3-0 to see their season come to an end just one match shy of a return to state. The Panthers finished their season with a record of 15-7, their fourth consecutive winning season.

Dove Creek (21-4), meanwhile, entered the 1A regional tournament in Cheraw as the No. 9 seed, hoping to either win their region, or nab one of four wild card berths into the state tournament. Head coach Lacey Murphy’s squad got off on the right foot, overcoming a slow start to post a 3-1 victory over No. 17 Simla, 15-25, 25-18, 25-21, 25-22.

The host Bears also topped Simla by the same margin to set up a showdown with Dove Creek for the regional crown. Playing on their home court, Cheraw had enough answers for the late Bulldog runs, winning 25-17, 25-14, 25-20, leaving the Bulldogs needing a wild card to make the field of 12 in the 1A state tournament.

CHSAA determines its four additional 1A state qualifiers based off their RPI rankings after the regional weekend. Dove Creek sits 9th after the final RPI rankings were settled, the highest ranked non-regional champion, meaning that they sit in prime position to make their first state appearance since 2018.

After their first winning regular season in seven years, Mancos brought their young, fiery squad into this squad’s 2A regional debut. Their assignment took them to No. 2 seed Meeker to face the Cowboys along with Sanford.

Playing in the first region to be competed over the weekend’s action, Mancos fell to the 2A powerhouse Cowboys, 25-13, 25-17, 25-13. Then, in a rematch of their 3-1 victory over Sanford from early in October, the Jays fell in their second meeting 3-0 to wrap up regional play.

Head coach Brianna Yeomans-Allison and her Bluejays return virtually their entire roster for 2022 after finishing up the season with a record of 11-12.

Meanwhile, Dolores had qualified for the regionals in every season since 2016, but their final matches in the regional tournament in Soroco had to be forfeited by Dolores. The Bears capped off their season with a 14-11 record, as Soroco topped the Colorado Springs School for the regional title.

If Dove Creek qualifies, with the official state brackets to be released on Monday, Nov. 8, they will join 11 other 1A squads on the Broadmoor World Arena floor in Colorado Springs for the state championships from Nov. 11-13.