The resounding thump of solid contact between palm and ball reverberates throughout the Mancos gym.
The sphere crashes into the hardwood, sending the Bluejays into a brief celebration before they return their focus to the next point.
It’s a sequence that requires six players in the creation of another point – and when executed effectively – is a seamless flow of movement and constant conversation.
For Mancos volleyball, the 2022 Jays appear to have a rhythm and confidence that could send them to one of the best seasons in program history. After starting to emerge as a San Juan Basin League threat in 2021, narrowly missing out on their first above-. 500 season since 2014, Mancos appears poised to become a powerful program in the 2A landscape.
“We put in a lot of time in the offseason,” said third-year head coach Brianna Yeomans-Allison. “These players have really led a shift in culture for Mancos volleyball.”
Four seniors headline the Mancos upperclassmen, as libero Shelby Jabour and setter Jessie Wallace anchor an active back line for the Mancos six-two alignment. Classmates Riley Cannon and Audrey Stockton have remained as key cogs in the Bluejay rotation – as Mancos looks to attack from all angles.
“We have so much depth this year,” added Yeomans-Allison, “and we want our girls to be able to take chances – which has led to them being more aggressive at the net.”
Ever since her first varsity match as a freshman, the Bluejay offense centers around junior Teya Yeomans, whose attacking prowess puts her among the best in the 2A classification.
“We definitely turn to her a lot to make big plays for us,” said Yeomans-Allison, “but I think that our depth will take some of the pressure off of her, and that will make her even more dangerous.”
Yeomans led the Jays with 250 kills from a year ago, thanks in part to Wallace’s pinpoint sets. Now Mancos will see a number of first-year players emerge to help disperse the attack volume all across the net.
“They (the freshmen) have been gaining confidence right from the opening matches, and we’re seeing players like Aysia Mathews and Claire Goodwin bring a really good energy to the team.”
Mancos will lean on their leaders to help the Bluejays contend in a deep San Juan Basin League. Two early season matchups against Dove Creek – both ending in defeat – are the lone setbacks for the Jays. Intriguing contests against Montezuma-Cortez on Tuesday, Sept. 13 and a feisty Nucla squad four days later lead up to a third meeting with the Bulldogs on Sept. 20 in Mancos.
A rematch of a five-set thriller against Ignacio awaits on the horizon in October, while a trip the San Luis Valley in late October helps the Jays tune up for another push in 2A regional play. A 20-win season, something that the Bluejays last achieved in 2011, appears to be squarely in the sights of the program as they hit their midseason stride.
Along with their last winning season coming in 2014, the Jays also celebrated their most recent win over Dolores eight seasons ago – spanning a series of 20 consecutive Bear victories in the rivalry.
That streak officially came to a screeching halt Thursday night, as the Bluejays (5-2, 2-0 2A/1A SJBL) seized firm control right from the opening serve, sweeping Dolores 25-21, 25-19, 25-13.
“We had a number of players step up for us tonight,” added Yeomans-Allison, “Aysia (Mathews) played a great match, and we had a number of other girls capitalizing on opportunities.”
The Bluejays feasted on kill opportunities, as Yeomans, Mathews, and Higgins kept the Bears off-balance.
Goodwin fired a dominant serve sequence that Dolores struggled to return, helping the Bluejays pull away in the third set. Yeoman and Stockton also collected kills in a 10-1 stretch, pushing Mancos to a perfect start in league play.
Bears (2-7, 0-2 2A/1A SJBL) junior Mikayla Puett compiled a number of strong plays to lift the hosts’ spirits, but the Bluejays proved to be too much in the end.
“We’re excited about the direction we’re moving,” said Yeomans-Allison, “and that’s testament to the hard work and dedication that these girls have put into this program.”