After their first conference win since 2007, the Tigers appear to be on the up and up.
Just not quite as high - not yet - as the Demons.
Durango High School's volleyball team (3-0, 1-0 Southwestern League) beat Grand Junction in four sets Friday night in the DHS gym, three days after their opponents handed SWL powerhouse Fruita Monument a five-set home loss.
"Grand Junction is a different team than I've ever seen before," said Durango High School head coach Robin Oliger. "They played very well."
Oliger told her Demons to be as aggressive as possible on offense, and it paid off, as the Durango's towering front line pounded the Tigers with aerial attacks, albeit earning a few net calls in the act.
"Part of it for us is the fact that we've played three matches," Oliger said. "You can see that out there, we're still trying to figure some things out. We have a lot of talent, though."
The Demons raced ahead 10-4 in the first set before allowing Grand Junction (5-3 overall, 1-1 SWL) to scrap back within two points at 15-13.
DHS answered by rattling off five consecutive points on senior Analena Provost's serve to make it 20-13, but the Tigers' Ashleigh Wilson and Kricket Adleman sparked another comeback rally to knot the set at 22.
Needing a monumental play, the Demons got it when senior Tonya Mulkey made a diving save to allow junior Anne Marie Pettinato to first block a Tiger attack, then finish the point with one of her team-leading 11 kills.
An Adleman tip tied it once more at 23, and sophomore Sloan Lovett's wide service nullified senior captain Neely Surmeier's touch kill off the line on set point moments later.
Adleman served into the net, however, setting up a decisive block from Mulkey and Surmeier that put the Demons up 26-24 for a 1-0 lead.
Grand Junction battled hard in Set 2, with nary a team holding its serve for more than two points as they again found themselves tied late, at 20.
Alas, the Demons buckled down again: Provost served her second ace in a row, Pettinato scored a kill, Provost fired yet another unreturned service, and two more kills from Pettinato penned the second in the books, 25-22.
As often happens when a team with a 2-0 lead gets complacent, Oliger said, the Demons allowed their opponents back into the match when Grand Junction streaked out 6-0 to start the third and Oliger's clipboard smacked against the gym floor.
"I don't like having to call a timeout with the lead 6-0," Oliger said.
A brief DHS flurry made it 7-11, but they dropped back again to 9-18, and a kill from Tigers senior Jordan Doughty gave GJHS a 25-15 set victory and a glimmer of hope.
"Their libero, she just moved and covered everything," Oliger said of junior Capri Rino, whose knack for digging tips gave the DHS front line fits for stretches.
The fourth set played out more like the second, with both teams trading one-point advantages until, at 20-20, DHS snatched control.
Mulkey turned in a crafty dump, Lovett had two kills, Pettinato's spike went off the line, and a Grand Junction foul finally ended it 25-21.
Provost totaled 14 digs to go along with four aces of 10 for DHS.
Miller had 16 digs, and Sloan added 15, giving DHS 45 total from its back three.
"I'm pretty happy with our defense," Oliger said
Mulkey had 38 assists setting the table, and junior Aspen McKeever added 10 kills for the Demons.
The Durango JV also beat Grand Junction's squad 3-1 after a 25-16 win in the fourth set.
The Demons will try to deal Fruita Monument's varsity the same result they received from Grand Junction at 11 a.m. today in the DHS gym.