Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
Make that 18.
The Durango High School volleyball team’s Southwestern League reign of terror continued Tuesday night as it crushed the Montezuma-Cortez Panthers’ hopes of another five-game insurrection, winning 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-19) on the annual Pink Digs for the Cure night at Durango High School.
“In the pregame ... we talked about making a statement for the rest of the league,” DHS assistant coach Colleen Keresey said. “And I think winning in three against a good Cortez team made a statement.”
It was the Demons’ 18th SWL win in a row over a span of nearly two years.
“That’s crazy,” Keresey said.
An iron fist, indeed.
After Cortez took Durango the distance in their last match two weeks ago, the Demons would abide no rebellion Tuesday on their home floor.
The Durango girls jumped to a 4-0 lead to start out Game 1, before the Panthers’ tight and scrappy defense found its feet.
As would be the pattern for the next two games as well, the two teams battled through a point-for-point beginning and middle of the game, with the Durango hitters hammering their sets and the Cortez defense coming up with sprawling digs.
As often as not, it was Demons’ errors rather than Panthers’ hits that scored Cortez its points.
“Our typical Cortez game,” Keresey said.
But tied 19-19 it was the whirling arm of McKenna Franzen that, like a windmill, fed energy into the Demons attack with a gusty kill.
Franzen led the team with 12 kills on the night.
Then, Durango won the next six points for the first-game victory.
Defensive specialist Mikayla Montoya said the raucous and pink-clad crowd provided audible juice for the Demons to feed off of all night – an anti-cancer brigade that she said made the difference between five games and three.
“That energy ... made us want to win,” Montoya said.
Senior outside hitter Zoe Cutler scored the game-winning kill, her first of five in the match to go along with some key blocks throughout, as she stepped up from junior varsity to take the place of Hannah Quick, who missed the match with an ankle injury.
Cutler’s confident play provided a key weapon in Durango’s arsenal Tuesday, Keresey said.
“If one door closes, another door opens,” said Cutler, daughter of Charles and Christina Cutler.
That blocking, which Keresey said the team spent lots of time working on over the week, also was key in the Game 2 victory.
Cutler said the girls struggled with Cortez’s oddly timed sets in their last meeting, in addition to leaving open the corners of the court for the Panthers’ hitters.
This time, the Demons rotated libero Kennedy Clark to better cover the corners and adjusted their middle blocking technique.
“We were good,” Cutler said. “We adjusted to (the Panthers) plays better.”
Still, the Demons had some trouble getting kills against Cortez libero Sarah Lawton until Durango started taking advantage of quick tips to find gaps in the defense and soften it up.
“Their libero is very good,” Cutler said. “We tried to keep the ball away from her.”
Once Durango did, the machine got churning.
Down 11-8, the Demons scored 17 of the final 21 points to win Game 2, aided by good passing from setter Natalie Bulen, who had 29 assists in the match.
“All six cylinders were running (Tuesday night),” the Demons’ assistant coach said.
Any misfires in the motor?
“Honestly, no,” Keresey said.
And Game 3 was more of the same, but Montoya’s aces didn’t hurt, either.
Tied 8-8, Montoya rattled off two aces on three points to make it 13-8.
She got another one to make it 24-17 and finished with four aces before Berkeley Davis ended the match with a missile of a kill to Cortez’s far corner.
“It’s probably one of the best feelings that everyone should get to feel,” Montoya said of her service points.
But Montoya also credited her team’s “spirit” in what she called one of the Demons’ “strongest games.” Everyone shared in her aces, she said.
“I think we’re a stronger team than we’ve ever been, and I really, really love it,” said Montoya, daughter of Frank and Stacie Montoya.
DHS (10-4, 6-0 SWL) will take to the road to play Grand Junction at 7 p.m. Friday, then Fruita Monument at 11:30 a.m. Saturday – potentially wins Nos. 19 and 20 in a row in the SWL.
“I think it sends a positive statement,” Montoya said of their archrivalry win against Montezuma-Cortez.
“I’m prepared for the next chapter in our season. I think we’re all prepared.”
That’s a few more SWL wins and a return trip to state.