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Panthers rally past Telluride to open season

Montezuma-Cortez High School’s Elise Galbraith and Sariah Robinson go up for a block in a match against Telluride
M-CHS overturns 2-1 deficit on the road

TELLURIDE – Trailing on the road in their 2021 season opener, Montezuma-Cortez’s youth movement showed the composure of a veteran squad to capture a 3-2 victory over Telluride.

M-CHS caught fire in the fourth and fifth sets to upend the Miners, 23-25, 25-15, 24-26, 25-10, 15-9 to kick off the Caroline Glover era for the Panthers.

Telluride (0-1), who emerged as a major factor in the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League title chase last season, proved that they will be a force again this season, taking the first set, 25-23.

M-CHS responded with an emphatic victory in the second set, 25-15, but then dropped the third set, 26-24.

The Panthers (1-0) turned the match around in the huddle after the lackluster third set, and the jolt in energy showed. “We were talking a lot more, celebrated each point,” said senior Sariah Robinson, “and that helped the team keep the energy up.”

The Panthers started on fire out of the gate in the fourth set, with a series of kills allowing the Panthers to build a quick 10-4 lead. From there, a steady dose of pressure forced the Miners into mistakes, allowed M-CHS to pull away for a comfortable 25-10 win.

Then, in the final set, the Panthers brought out some of their best play of the night. Robinson opened the set with a kill, before classmate Avery Wright did the same to build a 2-1 edge. Moments later, senior setter Adezdiin Boeckman put together a service string that Telluride couldn’t match, and the Panthers had a 7-2 lead.

Carlie McClellan came up with an emphatic block a few points later to build a 10-3 edge, and the Panthers didn’t look back. Feisty defense on the match’s final point allowed the Panthers to set up Wright to end the match, which she put away down the line to send the Panthers’ bench into celebration.

First-year head coach Caroline Glover opened up her varsity coaching career with a victory, as she watched a number of new varsity players rise up to the challenge alongside the trio of returning seniors.

“It’s a pretty young team,” said Robinson, “but I’m really excited for the dynamic that this group brings.”

Montezuma-Cortez senior Avery Wright rises for a kill in a match against Telluride on Friday, Aug. 20.

Junior Ashlyn Hall took over at the libero position, while Madi Carver and Ella Muhonen joined Robinson and Wright in the Panther attack.

The focal point for the offense orients around Wright’s powerful spikes, but the Panthers showed a variety of different looks against the Miners to keep their defense off-balanced. Boeckman served as the catalyst for the offense, offering consistent setting for the front line to pounce upon.

Robinson, meanwhile, who was a member of last year’s state semifinalist squad, relishes the opportunity to put her own stamp on the program. “It was fun tonight,” she said, “to be able to be a part of all six rotations, and get to be out there with a bunch of amazing teammates.”

The Panthers open their home schedule against county rival Dolores on Tuesday, Aug. 24, with the varsity match slated for 7 p.m.