The goal for Durango this year: Get that pool-play monkey off its back.
So far, so good.
The Durango High School volleyball team started off its 2012 state tournament in style, picking up a 3-0 victory over Silver Creek in its opening match at the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Volleyball State Championships on Friday at the Denver Coliseum.
DHS, seeded eighth, won 25-17, 26-24, 25-22 behind a solid block and timely runs. Jessie Brammer led Durango with 13 kills, while McKenna Franzen chipped in 11 kills and 13 digs. Natalie Bulen and Kennedy Clark tied for the team lead in digs with 14 each, and Bulen added 31 assists.
DHS, which lost its first match last year and has failed to advance out of pool play the last two years at state, threw a block party on Court 4, with middle hitters Bella Bernazzani and Berkeley Davis setting the beat. Head coach Robin Oliger called it the best blocking match of the year for the Demons.
I think (Fridays) the best blocking that weve had, Oliger said. Its funny because you work on something all season, and you say the same things over and over again, and all of a sudden, it just happens.
I felt a lot of excitement. I just focused on jumping as high as I could and pressing over, Bernazzani said.
Still, opening-match jitters bit both teams as they shook off the cobwebs of a good nights rest in an 8 a.m. contest. Durango quickly went down 3-0 in the first set, but the Demons eventually used a 5-1 run to pull ahead 23-16 before closing out the set on a Mikayla Montoya ace.
Once they shook off the nocturnal numbness, the Demons were happy to be playing in the opener and not having time to think about getting shellshocked, Bernazzani said.
It feels fresh coming out early in the morning. I like it, said Bernazzani, daughter of John and Robin Bernazzani.
Durango picked up the momentum and a 2-0 lead with a big rally for a second-set victory. After giving up four points on service errors to fall behind 24-21, DHS (18-8) got behind the serve of Gaby Razma to score five consecutive points, closing out the set on a Razma ace after consecutive Franzen kills.
DHS repeatedly climbed to within a point before committing a service error, which happened on four separate occasions late in Game 2. And before Razma got to the line and saw it out, the tension was palpable on the DHS bench.
I was sitting on the bench during that time, and I got on to the bench, and I told Robin, I was like, Im going to have a stroke, said Brammer, daughter of Michol and Robert Brammer, with a laugh. I was freaking out. It was so frustrating, working so hard for that point and then just losing it.
The Raptors refused to wilt in the third set, going up 3-0, then sticking with DHS as the lead see-sawed back and forth. But Brammer, as shed done the entire match, got cooking at the right time. She accounted for four of Durangos final five points via kills as the Demons turned a 21-all tie into a 25-22 win in the blink of an eye.
I think it was just better to maintain a balance between tipping and low-shotting because they didnt have any defense in the center, so it was better to focus on that, Brammer said.
DHS will meet top seed Cheyenne Mountain to close out pool play in Saturdays second match, likely beginning at approximately 9:30 a.m. Cheyenne Mountain also swept Silver Creek, so the winner today will advance to the semifinals later in the day. The loser will be eliminated.