Dove Creek volleyball wins Cortez tournament
1A Bulldogs best larger schools in impressive tournament victory
Sam Green/Cortez Journal
Perhaps the Montezuma-Cortez High School Panthers, a 4A school with an impressive volleyball pedigree, expected to win the Cortez Volleyball Tournament easily. Unfortunately for them, a scrappy team from Dove Creek had other ideas.
Badly outnumbered, yet in no way outclassed, the Dove Creek Bulldogs stormed into Ron Wright Memorial Gym on Sept. 7, won three consecutive matches against larger schools and walked away as tournament champions.
Competing in a preliminary pool that included Delta High School and Kirtland High School’s junior varsity, the Bulldogs opened the tournament in impressive fashion, beating Delta in straight sets, 25-15, 25-10.
Facing Kirtland in the second round of pool play, the Bulldogs were even more dominant, again winning in straight sets 25-5, 25-9. By recording two victories in pool play, Dove Creek locked up first in their pool and a spot in the tournament’s championship match.
Playing opposite Dove Creek in a pool that included Mancos High School and Dolores High School, the Panthers had a bit of a rough time.
Opening up against Dolores, MCHS looked somewhat disorganized, dropping a competitive first set 23-25. After rebounding in the second set for a 25-23 victory, the Panthers played well in the match’s final set, winning 15-7, to walk away with the match victory.
In their second pool play match against Mancos, the Panthers again received a scare. After winning the first set 25-16, the Panthers were unable to close out a scrappy Bluejays’ team, succumbing in the second set, 24-26. After falling behind 11-14 in the deciding third set, the Panthers somehow staved off disaster, coming from behind for a 17-15 set victory to secure the match.
With their victories over Dolores and Mancos, the Panthers secured first place in their pool, setting the stage for a five-set championship match against the Bulldogs.
During the early stages of the championship match’s first set, things remained close as the Panthers tied the score at 10-10 on a nice cross-court spike by Beth Brown.
Things quickly went south for the hometown team, however, and after a series of Bulldogs’ runs, culminated by a spike by Shelbie Knuckles, MCHS trailed 20-12. Not long after, a hitting error by the Panthers gave the Bulldogs a first set victory, 25-17.
Coming back strong in the second set, the Panthers began on a 4-0 run, stretched their lead to 21-9 on a huge serve by Brown and eventually captured the set 25-13 on a kill down the middle by Naomi Pennecoose.
Not to be dissuaded however, the Bulldogs started strong in the third set, jumping to a 6-1 lead on a spike by Knuckles. After the Panthers briefly closed the gap to 10-8 following a spike by Pennecoose, the Bulldogs took over and eventually captured the set, 25-16.
With their backs against the wall in the fourth set, the Panthers again stepped up, jumping out to a 7-0 lead behind strong serves from Brown. Holding on to their early advantage, the Panthers came away with a 25-17 fourth set victory.
Laying everything on the line in the match’s deciding fifth set, the Bulldogs and the Panthers traded blows as the crowd roared its approval.
After the Bulldogs jumped out to a 4-2 lead on a hit out of bounds by Pennecoose, the Panthers clawed back to go ahead 10-9. A series of Bulldogs’ scores put Dove Creek ahead 14-12, but the Panthers twice staved off elimination on spikes by Pennecoose to tie the score at 14-14.
Eventually, however, the Dove Creek attack was too much for the Panthers to handle and following a series of exciting points, the Bulldogs won the set 17-15 on a great block by Jennifer Fury.
As his team celebrated near center court and the Dove Creek crowd roared its approval, Bulldogs head coach Scott Knuckles said, “I was very pleased with the way (the team) played. We let a couple of sets slip away. Cortez, they were hitting angles and lines. They were tough to defense.”
“It just feels really good to beat Cortez because they are 4A and we are barely, like, 1A,” added Bulldogs’ co-captain Madison Young. “It just feels really good.”
“We’ve been together since preschool,” explained Shelbie Knuckles. “We just play together and they are like my family. We love each other.”
Following Dove Creek and MCHS in the tournament standings, Delta finished third, Dolores finished fourth, Mancos finished fifth, and Kirtland was sixth.