It wasn’t for a lack of effort or atmosphere, but a Southwestern League title evaded the Durango High School volleyball team in Friday night’s homecoming match.
Grand Junction Central’s powerful front line was a match for the towering Demons, and the visiting Warriors handed DHS (12-6 overall, 7-2 SWL) a four-set loss – 16-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-17.
“I think we held our own,” Durango head coach Robin Oliger said. “We didn’t play our best, but I think we played better than we did up in Grand Junction (in an Oct. 3 loss).
“I have to give it to Central; they’re a good, solid team. We tried hard. Yeah, of course I’m disappointed we lost, but we lost to a worthy opponent. Part of me is OK with that.”
The loss to Central – 9-0 in conference – sets up another home match at noon today for second place in the SWL. The Demons currently occupy that spot, but a Montrose win would create an unwanted deadlock.
“We can’t dwell on this one, we have to go forward,” Oliger said. “We don’t want to split with Montrose and end up in a second-place tie with them.”
Montrose’s match Friday night at Montezuma-Cortez might have sealed it for DHS, but results were not available at The Durango Herald press time.
Oliger said her team needs to be ready and focused, either way, but at least Montrose doesn’t have Amy Kame, Central’s
6-foot-1 middle hitter who had 16 kills and gave the defense fits Friday with her vicious swings.
“Amy’s a really smart player,” Central coach Beth Nelson said. “She’s played varsity for four years, and she just played really smart.”
Kame said she was just proud to help guide the Warriors to their first conference title in 12 years.
“It’s really cool, we haven’t won here since I’ve been a freshman,” Kame said. “It’s really awesome to come here and get a win.
“They stayed out on me, but our whole team did a good job of coming together,” she said. “We really distributed the ball a lot more on the sets, so it worked out really good.”
DHS jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first set, with Oliger parading onto the court in euphoria after a Grand Junction Central timeout.
The Warriors clawed back to 14-12, getting six consecutive points on Ashley Wells’ serve, and a Wells tip made it 20-16, but Neely Surmeier tallied the last three points to close the door.
“We got off to a good start,” Oliger said. “Julia Lawton was playing great defense. But we kind of started shutting down a little bit.”
The second set was tied at five when Kame and the Central middle hitters took over to build an 11-6 lead.
The Demons knotted it back up at 15 on Tonya Mulkey’s ace off the back line, but Central seized control.
Kame finished the final stretch with three hard kills to even the match at a set each.
“Missing some serves did not help,” said Oliger, whose team made 11 service errors on the night.
The Demons went up 15-10 on Sloan Lovett’s kill in the third, but Central came back again to tie it at 19.
It was tied again at 23 when the Demons took a 24-23 lead for set point after Provost made a diving dig and Lovett put it away.
Central didn’t relent, however, rattling off three points in a row for the set, capped by a Kame tip for a 2-1 lead.
DHS led early again in the fateful fourth at 5-2, but the Warriors scored eight consecutive points on Alyce Albright’s serve.
The Demons rallied to 13-10 but never again got within three, and McKeever’s wide attack put it in the books.
“It’s a great feeling,” Nelson said. “Durango’s a good team. It’s definitely nice to be league champs and come in their gym with the big crowd and come away with the win.”
DHS totaled 20 blocks, with junior Anne Marie Pettinato and setter Mulkey getting five apiece. Surmeier added four.
“That is huge. People don’t realize unless they play volleyball how big that is,” Oliger said.
Lovett led the Demons in both kills (18) and digs (15), despite being the focus of the Grand Junction Central defense.
“We’re pretty impressed with her, with her being a sophomore outside hitter,” Nelson said. “We knew we needed to slow her down and get a big block set up. She’s got a pretty big swing, and the girls did a really good job of keying in on her.”
Junior Rachel Miller had 14 digs for DHS, senior Analena Provost had 11, and Lawton, a junior, had 10.
As part of Senior Day, Surmeier was honored along with parents Jon and Becky, Mulkey was joined by parents Jim and Carla, Provost with mom Kim, and Laken Hyson with parents Cole and Jennifer.