The Demons found their Saturday-morning recipe for success.The Durango High School volleyball team, after a 3-1 victory over visiting Grand Junction on Friday night, blended their key ingredients and added a few new elements to cook up a 3-0 win over Fruita Monument on Saturday for a sweep in its opening weekend of Southwestern League play.
The Demons improved to 4-0 overall and 2-0 in the SWL with the 25-23, 25-18, 25-22 victory over the Wildcats at the DHS gym.
With their usual blocking barricade at the net and their consistently scrappy defense, the Demons also managed to manage what in the past amounted to a Saturday-morning letdown after a Friday-night fight.
"It's nice to win in three ... on a Saturday," DHS head coach Robin Oliger said. "I thought both teams were sluggish to start. But that's the nature of the beast."
Oliger said the Demons, with solid contributions from players like Claire Ochsner and Laken Hyson, found enough consistency to take the SWL match before a modest home crowd.
"Claire played really well (Saturday)," Oliger said. She finished with a season-high five kills in the three-set match.
"Tonya (Mulkey) played better (Saturday), too," the DHS coach said. "We're still struggling with our communication, at times. But overall, I was very pleased."
She said the communication gap surfaced in the third set after the Demons were up 2-0.
They jumped ahead early in the third set, leading 5-1 and then 10-3 after a kill from Ochsner off a set from Mulkey.
The Demons forced three consecutive hitting errors by the Wildcats before Hyson hammered a kill to put the Demons ahead 14-5.
The teams traded points until Jessi Wymore and Anne Marie Pettinato teamed for a big block that gave the Demons a nine-point advantage at 20-11.
Fruita Monument picked up the momentum there behind the all-around play of junior Camille Kovach and the jump serves of juniors Janine Kirtland and Angie Archuleta.
When senior Sarah Hensley served an ace off the tape at the top of the net, the Wildcats pulled to within 24-20. Archuleta added a back-row kill, and the Wildcats forced a DHS hitting error to close within 24-22.
But Wymore closed the deal for the Demons on a cross-court kill off another set from Mulkey to end the match 25-22.
Mulkey, a senior co-captain, dished out 25 assists in the three-setter. She also added a pair of kills and helped in the DHS blocking scheme.
Sophomore Sloan Lovett led the team in kills with 12.
Senior co-captain Neely Surmeier, in addition to blocking for points, had a half-dozen kills, many coming on the slide play where she cuts behind setter Mulkey.
Pettinato had three solo blocks to go with a handful of combination blocks.
Katie Lewis, one of only two seniors on the Fruita Monument squad, led the Wildcats with seven kills. Kovach added six.
"We struggled to get fired up (Saturday)," Fruita Monument coach Amelia Conner said. "I don't know what it was, but we just ... didn't have that intensity."
She said the Wildcats played one of their best matches of the season Friday in a 3-0 victory at Montezuma-Cortez.
"But this (Saturday's match) was frustrating," she said, adding that the Wildcats had several opportunities to win the first set.
Fruita Monument rallied from a late four-point deficit to tie that set 20-20. But a key dump kill by Mulkey gave the Demons a slight cushion.
Surmeier ended the set with a solo block.
The second set was equally close with eight ties and five lead changes before DHS prevailed.
Conner said she was pleased with the third-set comeback.
"But that's not enough against a team like Durango," she said as the Wildcats fell to 5-5 overall, 1-2 in league play.
Durango heads to the Front Range for the Cherry Creek Tournament next weekend.