Able to send seniors Makayla Howell and Bella Pena out with one last regular-season home victory last Friday versus Ridgway (25-20, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18), then able to win a third consecutive match in as many days the next afternoon at Norwood (25-21, 25-18, 25-16), Ignacio High School’s volleyball team certainly earned a break this week from competition.
“Everyone’s trying their hardest; we’re all trying our hardest, working together to make our team the best and to fill positions for varsity, just in case they need us,” Pena said recently, noting the importance of not only the regulars but the swing players seeing time the past month-and-a-half on both JV and varsity. “We’re always being prepared.”
Howell has been pleased with how the young squad has come together this season.
“It’s just great to see that even now, we have a young team, but we’re still connecting really well, really helping each other out. And that goes for the whole program,” Howell said. “I think we all have our fundamentals down pretty well; what the coaches teach us, they really help us understand. And if some of our teammates don’t understand, then we as seniors help explain to them.”
Now standing 11-8 overall, 3-5 against the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League’s 2A members but 6-6 against the complete circuit, the Bobcats will finally close out regular-season play Friday and Saturday at the Rye Invitational looking to perhaps rise a little higher in CHSAA’s RPI ratings.
As of Thursday morning, IHS checked in 32nd trailing Vail Christian by about three-thousandths of a percentage point but clear of Greeley Dayspring Christian by about 0.007. Not exactly the best position in which to be considering 36 teams qualify for regionals, with the top 12, seeded by RPI, earning hosting rights. But for IHS, it’s not the worst position, either, with four matches still awaiting them.
Up first, the ’Cats will collide with the meet-hosting 2A Thunderbolts at 5:30 p.m. Friday, ending an afternoon slated to begin at 1 p.m. with 3A Trinidad facing Rye. Class 2A Sanford will then battle 2A Rocky Ford at about 2:30 p.m. and then square off against Trinidad, the only crew not coming in with a winning record, at around 4 p.m.
Day 2 play will commence with Ignacio challenging Sanford at 9 a.m., then testing Trinidad at about 10:30 a.m. Sanford and Rye will then play at about noon, followed by a bonus 1:30 p.m. match pitting IHS and Trinidad – because both squads needed one more match – with the outcome having no bearing on the tournament standings.
All matches will be best-of-5 to 25 points in each with a win-by-two margin in effect. Any fifth-game tiebreaker will be played to 15 points and will also be win-by-two; no scoring cap will be placed on any game. Ties in the tournament’s final standings will be broken first by head-to-head outcome, then games won/lost percentage, and then point differential.
Expect Ignacio head coach Thad Cano to rely on not only Howell’s all-around play but freshman Grace Gonzales’ re-emerging skills. Against Ridgway, she mashed down 16 kills at a vicious .421 clip and then downed eight against Norwood at an even .400 rate.
Howell downed eight kills and sophomore Lexy Young another six versus the Demons, while sophomore Alexis Pontine booked six against the Mavericks as junior setter Marisa Carmenoros totaled a reported 44 assists.
Defensively, five ’Cats came up with five or more digs at Norwood, led by Carmenoros’ seven and Pontine’s six. Gonzales and Howell each logged five, but Ignacio’s best defense against both teams paid serious dividends offensively.
From the service line, Carmenoros was credited with a reported 11 aces against Ridgway and Howell six, while Young was credited with 11 aces against the overwhelmed Mavs.
“I think that’s going to be our biggest thing going in, really keying on our serving,” Howell said. “And also swinging hard and just helping each other on court – calling where we see open plays, not hitting into the block, then covering the blocks.Defense, as long as we cover and play smart, I think that will help us a lot.”