Up and down volleyball

M-CHS Lady Panthers split Southwest League opening home stand

Beth Brown spikes the ball for the Lady Panthers, as Loryn Chiapuzio tries to block it for Fruita Monument. M-CHS lost the match in four sets Saturday afternoon. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Beth Brown spikes the ball for the Lady Panthers, as Loryn Chiapuzio tries to block it for Fruita Monument. M-CHS lost the match in four sets Saturday afternoon.

The Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball team seeks consistency.

A record of 8-7 shows a volleyball squad of hit and miss.

The Lady Panthers opened Southwestern League play, hosting 5A schools Grand Junction and Fruita Monument last Friday and Saturday.

Behind Nickelle Oliver, Danielle Waltman and Abby Engel, M-CHS dispatched Grand Junction, 3-1 (25-17, 21-25, 25-14, 25-19).

That momentum carried to Saturday afternoon against the visiting Fruita Lady Wildcats. Supreme play from Naomi Pinnecoose, Oliver and Waltman propelled the Lady Panthers to a 25-20 first set win.

However, M-CHS would lose late leads in sets two and four, and couldn’t take the lead in the third set.

The Lady Panthers narrowly fell to Fruita, 3-1 (25-20, 23-25, 24-26, 21-25).

Mental errors were the difference for M-CHS (8-7, 1-1 5A/4A SWL).

“I feel like we have the physical ability. We need to work on the mental part of the game,” M-CHS coach Barbara Chappell said. “It’s staying in the moment and having that assurance we can get the job done. I think they are playing well for the majority of it. We just need to be more consistent.”

The Lady Wildcats (4-4, 3-1 5A/4A SWL) clawed back to take an 18-17 lead in the first set. But Oliver’s powerful spike relinquished the lead for the Lady Panthers at 19-18. Waltman later hit a serving ace for match point and a set one win.

M-CHS trailed most of set 2 and tied things at 18 after a Devon Biery kill. A Fruita error and Waltman kill gave the Lady Panthers a 20-18 lead and major momentum. M-CHS still led 21-20, until Fruita’s Allie Hayes killed to tie it up. Hayes’ serving ace gave her team the lead, but Engel responded with a kill to tie the set at 22. Spikes my Fruita’s MacKenzie Schuller and Pinnecoose kept things level at 23. But Oliver would hit the ball out of bounds and the Lady Wildcats led 24-23. Ryanne Buck served for match point and a Lady Panthers’ miscommunication, resulted in a serving ace and set win for Fruita.

M-CHS appeared emotionally flat in the third set, as the Lady Wildcats scored 13 of the first 18 points. But the Lady Panthers would wake up after consecutive Oliver and Biery kills to trail 13-7. Behind Biery, Laurel Chappell’s serving and assisting, and Pinnecoose converting spot-on shots, M-CHS crept back in it. Down 23-18, the Lady Panthers went on a 6-1 run to tie the set 24-24.

Fruita went back in front off a kill by Buck. In the next sequence, Biery’s block sailed out to give the Lady Wildcats match point and a 2-1 advantage.

In the final set, M-CHS started strong and jumped out to a 13-8 lead. But couldn’t pull away from a young, pesky Lady Wildcats squad. Savannah Lowe spiked a kill to give Fruita a 17-16 lead. The Lady Wildcats would not trail again and left Cortez with the win.

“At some point, we have to take control of that momentum and win those (close) games,” Barb Chappell said. “It’s really hard to lose 23-25. When you know you’re right in there with them, it’s that much harder to lose.”

Laurel Chappell led the Lady Panthers with a double-double of 33 assists and 12 digs. Waltman tallied 11 kills and nine digs, while Pinnecoose had eight kills and nine digs. Engel and Beth Brown totaled 22 and 21 kills, respectively.

“We fight hard and we want (to win) it, but we can never to seem to end it with a win,” said Pinnecoose about the team’s close losses this season. “We all want it, we’re all playing our best, we just need to work on being a little more consistent.”

MacKenzie had a team high 10 kills for Fruita, while Joelle LeFevre recorded 14 digs.

“I feel like we’re paying well, we just need to work on some little things,” Barb Chappell said. “We need to finish the way we need to.”

M-CHS won’t have much time to regroup, as it hosts first-place rival Durango (7-4, 2-0 5A/4A SWL) tonight at 7 p.m.

“I definitely think we can beat Durango, if we don’t worry about it and play how we know how to play,” Pinnecoose said. “Sometimes we get in our heads and we freak out. We just need to stay calm and relaxed.”

bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

Nickelle Oliver blocks a spike, along with Devon Biery, Saturday against Fruita. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Nickelle Oliver blocks a spike, along with Devon Biery, Saturday against Fruita.