Only tough wear pink

M-CHS, Durango battle in volleyball for Breast Cancer Awareness

Danielle Waltman digs out a spike Tuesday night against Durango. She had 22 digs in the Lady Panthers five set loss. Below: Beth Brown spikes the ball Tuesday night against Durango. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Danielle Waltman digs out a spike Tuesday night against Durango. She had 22 digs in the Lady Panthers five set loss. Below: Beth Brown spikes the ball Tuesday night against Durango.

Often times, records are thrown out the window when rivals play.

Each team is eager to knock the other off. Teams feed off the crowd energy.

The Montezuma-Cortez High School volleyball team fed off its home crowd against Durango.

Coach Barbara Chappell’s Lady Panthers had the Demons on the ropes, fighting tooth-and-nail.

But league leader Durango dug deep and found a way to win in the fifth and final set Tuesday night.

M-CHS and Durango battled to the bitter end. But the Lady Panthers were edged, 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-21, 5-15), in front of a raucous pink-shirt crowd on Breast Cancer Awareness night.

“They played amazing tonight. I feel like those girls came off that Fruita game and said ‘We know we have to get stronger mentally.’ That’s what they did,” said M-CHS coach Barbara Chappell about the team’s improved play Tuesday night compared to a 3-1 home loss last Saturday to Fruita Monument.

Each squad sported pink uniforms and certainly played very tough in their color. The visiting Demons (8-4, 3-0 4A Southwestern League) received a fight that tested them physically, mentally and emotionally.

“Oh my gosh,” said a relieved Demons coach Robin Oliger. “I know I say this every year, but one of our toughest matches the entire season, is every time we play Cortez. They played incredible tonight.”

M-CHS (8-8, 1-2 4A SWL) did not back down.

“I had a lot of adrenaline. I’ve watched this game since I was in fourth-grade, so it was really cool to finally get to play in it,” said freshman setter Laurel Chappell. “Our crowd was amazing.”

Danielle Waltman and Nickelle Oliver came out swinging in the first set, as the Lady Panthers built an early 8-4 lead. M-CHS maintained a 4- to 5-point edge and possessed its biggest margin at 17-11.

The Lady Panthers were ahead 22-17 when Oliger called timeout.

Durango (No. 8; Denver Post, Coloradopreps.com) started chipping away. A net error and an assisted block by Natalie Bulen and Berkeley Davis cut the M-CHS lead to 22-19. That lead shrank to 22-20 after a Bulen kill that forced Barb Chappell to call timeout. But self-inflicted wounds and the powerful play of Bulen were too much. The Demons closed the first set on a 8-0 run to win and shock the home fans.

However, there was no quit in M-CHS.

The Lady Panthers punched back in the second set and each team played to an 11-11 tie before a 5-0 M-CHS spurt. Up 16-11, the Lady Panthers had to hold back the Demons. Waltman and Laurel Chappell made huge plays and the biggest play came at match point. M-CHS led 24-20 and a furious rally ensued. But the smallest player on the floor in senior libero Abby Engel perfectly hit the ball to the left corner of the court right on the end line for point 25.

It was 1-1 at the break between two seemingly matched teams.

Behind Bulen and McKenna Franzen, Durango built a 21-14 lead in set 3 and appeared to have control. Until Waltman spiked a devastating kill to turn the momentum. Oliver scored back-to-back kills and a 4-hit penalty on the Demons cut the score to 21-18. M-CHS kept its run going and tied the match at 23. The crowd erupted when Waltman’s serving ace put the Lady Panthers on top 24-23. But the senior gave it back to Durango with a serving error and it was knotted at 24. A Sarah Waller serving ace and Devon Biery’s final hit out of bounds gave the Demons a 26-24 win and 2-1 match lead.

Again, M-CHS bounced back.

The Lady Panthers built a 13-5 lead and never trailed, winning set 4 and forcing a deciding fifth set. It was the first time Durango had been pushed five sets this season. Good teams ultimately find ways to win and Durango did that in the final frame.

Franzen and Bella Bernazzani quickly set the tone with enormous spikes to build an early Demons lead. The visitors pulled away for a 10-point set victory to clinch a hard fought match.

Franzen paced Durango with 13 kills, Jessie Brammer had 12, Hannah Quick tallied 10 and Bernazzani scored nine. Bulen totaled 42 assists for the Demons.

“We couldn’t put the ball down on them. They seemed to have all the answers to everything we were doing. This is not an easy place to play,” Oliger said. “I just tell them to try and be patient, don’t rush things, don’t rush their hits, be patient in their blocking. We were a little over-reactive at times.”

Durango definitely pulled things together in the fifth set. But the Lady Panthers had a lot of positives come from the match despite another heartbreaking loss.

“That fifth set sucked. It was bad, but they fought so hard and they gave to each other,” Barb Chappell said. “When they got frustrated, they didn’t get down inside themselves. They tried to stay positive. It’s that part of the game. They have all the physical ability in the world. It’s the mental part of the game they showed tonight.”

M-CHS will continue its league home stand on Friday and Saturday versus Montrose and Grand Junction Central at 7 p.m. and 11:30 a.m.

“I think we have a lot more confidence now and going into our league games, we’re just going to take that confidence with us,” Laurel Chappell said. “We know, hopefully, we can beat every team in this league. We took Durango to five and that’s a big feat. We need to go into these games knowing that we’re good and that we can take theses teams.”

The Lady Panthers will be on the road for the rest of the season starting Tuesday, Oct. 9, at Durango.

bobbya@cortezjournal.com.

Abby Engel sets up her teammates Tuesday night against Durango. She had a game-high 25 digs. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Abby Engel sets up her teammates Tuesday night against Durango. She had a game-high 25 digs.

Beth Brown spikes the ball Tuesday night against Durango. Enlargephoto

Sam Green/Cortez Journal

Beth Brown spikes the ball Tuesday night against Durango.