Courtney Oakes/Special to the Herald
DENVER – Speed kills.
Cheyenne Mountain’s speed has been laying waste to opponents in Denver for six years running now; this time, it gathered Durango in its wake.
The Durango High School volleyball team’s quest for a state title ended Saturday with a 3-0 loss to four-time defending champion Cheyenne Mountain at the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Volleyball State Championships at the Denver Coliseum.
The Indians kept their drive for five alive with a 25-10, 25-16, 25-14 win over the Southwestern League champions, using their remarkable speed to fluster the Durango defense. Having played Cheyenne Mountain earlier in the year, the Demons had an idea of what was coming, but the Indians executed so well that it didn’t matter, as players such as Maddie Beal, Mara Barkley and Megan Schultz found holes in the block and empty space on the floor.
“We had kind of a breakdown in our ball control. That was hard,” DHS head coach Robin Oliger said. “You know that saying (former NFL head coach) Dennis Green had? ... ‘They are who we thought they were.’ Really, that’s true. They’re the same team from the very beginning. Just they’re more polished now. But it’s hard because they’re just so dang fast. And it’s not like they’re tricky about it.”
Durango’s best shot at taking a set came in the third. The Demons finally got McKenna Franzen untracked a bit to help build a 5-2 lead and stick with Cheyenne Mountain as the inevitable rally came.
But the Indians proved too much to handle late; they ended the match on a 12-2 run.
“I mean, their speed is definitely an issue. We got our blocks up in the second game, really started to focus on that; it’s just they’re fast,” said setter Natalie Bulen, daughter of David and Janine Bulen. “We were playing smart (in the third set), and our defense really helped us out with that, and then, once our defense was on, we were able to get that set and make smart attacks.”
Cheyenne Mountain runs were the not-so-subtle story of the entire morning.
The Indians closed out the first set on an 8-0 outburst. Then they turned a 13-10 second set into a 21-10 lead in the blink of an eye before finally putting Durango away after a short outburst near the end of the frame.
Bulen had 15 assists and 10 digs for the Demons, who got 14 digs from Kennedy Clark. Franzen had seven kills, while Bella Bernazzani and Jessie Brammer had five apiece.
Bulen, Clark and Franzen, along with Zoe Cutler and Hannah Quick, saw their Durango careers come to an end Saturday, and that thought left Oliger a bit misty-eyed as another quality class goes the way of college. But with several key pieces to the state tournament puzzle returning next year, Oliger’s optimistic for what 2013 may bring.
“We’ve got a lot of great kids coming back, and our (junior varsity) team was really strong. ... We’ve got a lot of good pieces,” Oliger said.
Durango finished the season 18-9. And while the Demons didn’t achieve their end goal of a state title, they at least finished in their desired destination for the third consecutive year.
“I mean, we were able to finish with a goal that we wanted to achieve, and that was to get to state,” Bulen said. “Although we didn’t go as far as we’d like to, we won our league, region and then got to state.”