The 2019 volleyball season began for Ignacio High School with a three-pronged coronation plan: league, regionals and state.
And though dreams of conquering the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League had been decidedly dashed, the Bobcats went into their regular-season-ending appearance at the Nov. 1-2 Rye Invitational still believing the other objectives were obtainable.
Needing to avoid disaster in order to remain a top-36 team in CHSAA’s RPI standings, the then-No. 32 Bobcats clinched a postseason berth with strikingly similar victories – 25-20, 28-26, 25-23 and later 25-22, 26-24, 27-25 – versus 3A Trinidad on Day 2 of the event.
IHS inevitably received the No. 30 seed when the Class 2A state tournament’s regional-phase brackets were released Monday. Assigned to region 7, Ignacio (13-10 overall) will next venture north to Kremmling, where they will first face hosting 7-seed West Grand at 11 a.m. Friday morning, before dueling No. 18 Ault Highland at 12:30 p.m.
West Grand-Highland will then close the show, with the first-place squad earning a trip to the state championships in Denver.
And though much of Ignacio’s verbal leadership will undoubtedly be expected to come from senior Makayla Howell – whose “This energy is killing me” statement overheard during a timeout helped sufficiently re-fire a collectively-stalling engine. Solid on-court direction will have to come from junior setter Marisa Carmenoros, who, like Howell, logged statistical double-doubles in each of IHS’ sweeps of Trinidad (6-16 overall).
“Her volleyball I.Q., as far as distribution of the ball, is real, real good,” said IHS head coach Thad Cano. “I’ve talked to her, gave her some ideas on what to do, but she manages the hitters very well.
“We’re going to be working on the communication and aggressiveness. Three contacts; everyone wants those three contacts. So we’re going back to being aggressive, playing for purpose.”
Even in a 31-29, 25-22, 20-25, 23-25, 12-15 loss to surging 2A Sanford, which won the Invitational with a 3-0 mark and went 4-0 overall for the weekend, giving SHS six consecutive wins ending regular-season play, that much was evident. Howell enjoyed one of her finest matches ever, recording 21 kills and 20 digs to go with eight total blocks, while Carmenoros also made a valid run at a triple-double with 27 assists, eight digs and seven service aces.
In the first test against THS, Howell booked an 11-kill, 15-dig effort while Carmenoros had 18 assists and ten digs. She then distributed 22 assists in the rematch – which, like Sanford’s five-set win over 2A Rocky Ford on Day 1, had no bearing on the tournament standings – and came up with 15 digs, while Howell smashed 18 kills and came up with a dozen digs.
Second place overall in the 2A/1A Western Slope League during the regular season, and second amongst its 2A members behind only Meeker, West Grand (19-4 overall) and head coach Scott Terryberry will look to six-foot senior Emma DeSanti (208 kills) and 5-foot-10 sophomore Alex Schake (178) to establish dominance up front offensively, with DeSanti (75 total blocks) and senior Mikayla Shearer (92) relied upon most to control the net defensively.
Reported numbers show an impressive six Mustangs with 200 or more digs, paced by Schake’s 337 and Shearer’s 323 with DeSanti (290) close behind, meaning clean kill shots – by both IHS and HHS – will require perfect placement.
Firepower for Highland (15-8 overall) comes primarily from 5-foot-8 junior Alexus Rigg (142 kills), with 5-foot-8 senior Sidney Brown (95) and 5-foot-6 junior Kelsey Truax (79) regularly the Huskies’ second and third options for setters Maiya DeHoyos (246 assists) and Taryn Winter (192).
Alyssa Winter has also been quite a sight to witness defensively for head coach Jared Nelson, credited with a team-best 399 digs to date. Only junior Sierra Staab, with 200, comes even close to the 5-foot-6 senior (Taryn Winter, a sophomore, has 162).