CORTEZ – Able to avoid a sweep despite losing a 24-22 Game 3 lead, the Ignacio Volleycats were unable to prolong their season opener Tuesday into a tiebreaking fifth game as hosting Montezuma-Cortez ended Game 4 on an 11-3 run to take the game and match.
Sparked in the fourth game by senior Elise Galbraith’s vicious overpass-kill into the heart of the defense, rebuilding the Lady Panthers’ lead to 17-12 after IHS had clawed back to 14-12 via a deft Ollyvia Howe roll shot, M-CHS all but secured the match when senior libero Ashlyn Hall aced Kacey Brown for a 20-14 advantage and then forced an unplayable ace through the top of the net.
IHS senior Harmony Reynolds glanced an attempted line shot off the antenna, and Hall zinged over another serve Brown couldn’t control to increase the home team’s lead to 23-14. An Ignacio passing error put Montezuma-Cortez on match point, and after Volleycat senior Trinity Strohl improbably – and blindly, no less – swatted a ball from near the guests’ bench and back over the net into unprotected space, Panthers senior Emma Olsen capped a 25-22, 25-12, 24-26, 25-15 win with a short tip to the middle.
The ’Cats (0-1, 0-0 2A/1A San Juan Basin) led much of Game 1, but after regaining the upper hand at 16-15, lost the lead for good when Montezuma-Cortez (2-0, 0-0 3A Intermountain) equalized at 22-all. IHS head coach Shasta Pontine took a timeout, but Caroline Glover’s Lady Panthers soon claimed the game via an ace by senior Madi Carver.
Sharing setting duties in 2022 with junior Delta Suckla, M-CHS senior Carlie McClellan began Game 2 with a kill, and Montezuma-Cortez took the lead for good at 3-2 via a scoring shot from sophomore Karlee Hubbs. Allowing Ignacio to get no closer than 5-3, the Lady Panthers went up 2-0 in the match when Carver, set by McClellan, pounded a kill down the line and off Brown’s forearm.
Galbraith opened Game 3 with a kill, but the ’Cats would dig in and build a 20-17 lead before M-CHS began pushing the pace and tied the game at 22-22. Reynolds responded by dropping in a roll shot and IHS reached game point, 24-22, when Olsen pushed a shot out of bounds.
Glover called a timeout, and after Brown netted a serve, McClellan managed to tip Strohl and press Pontine into taking a timeout with the score knotted at 24-all. But M-CHS’ ensuing serve sailed long, and recently entered substitute Marissa Olguin capitalized by firing a clutch ace to keep the ’Cats in the fight.
In defeat, Reynolds totaled an IHS-leading eight kills, Brown contributed six and senior setter Laci Brunson distributed 19 assists. Howe, Strohl, Brown and Brunson were also credited with three aces apiece. Defensively, Brunson and junior libero Maci Barnes each logged 13 digs and Brown was credited with 10.
Individual numbers for the Lady Panthers had not been reported by press time.
Up next, Montezuma-Cortez will hit the road Saturday to clash with 3A Western Slope Leaguers Delta.
Ignacio, meanwhile, was scheduled to play Thursday at nonleague Del Norte, as this paper was going to press. The Lady Tigers stood 1-1 after a season-opening five-game home loss to preseason 2A No. 10 Hoehne and a 25-9, 25-11, 25-12 trouncing of 2A Southern Peaks rival Trinidad the next day.