Skiers’ bid falls short at Regionals
DENVER – The end result wasn’t exactly what the Aspen High School girls volleyball team was hoping for, but you had to love the effort.
The Skiers went just 1-2 in their matches at the round-robin-style 3A Regional tournament Saturday at Lutheran High School in Denver, but they did it in a way that impressed everyone at the event – with comebacks and team play and enough grit to do even John Wayne proud.
“We were four points away from the state tournament,” said Aspen coach Matt Bergdahl.
“We went about as deep as we could go. How could we feel bad about it?”
Aspen came out a bit flat and perhaps a little nervous for its opening match against the host team.
Lutheran, a powerhouse from the Metro League, entered the tourney 23-1-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state.
But behind some strong serving by Kelli Dangler and some good work at the net by Julia Suiter and Elizabeth Oakes, Aspen jumped out to a brief 4-1 lead.
However, Lutheran stormed back to win the next 15 points for a first-game victory.
In the second game, the Skiers fell behind 9-1 early and, despite a mid-game rally, lost a 15-7 decision.
A bit overwhelmed by their loss to Lutheran, the Skiers dropped the opening game of their second match 15-5 to Centauri High School. But just when things looked bleakest, Aspen circled the wagons and found its game.
In game 2 versus Centauri, Aspen jumped out to a quick 11-3 lead behind the front-line play of Lacee Patterson and back-to-back points off of blown-rotation penalties against the Falcons.
Centauri rallied to cut the deficit to 13-10, but a big block by Suiter and a kill by Jasmine Liddington propelled Aspen to a 15-10 win.
In the rubber game, the Skiers fell behind early but came back with Alison Ortmann and Whitney Shaw serving to take a 7-5 lead.
The Falcons would tie the game 8-8, but then Aspen’s Jill Evans took over, recording two kills and a big block, as the Skiers won the final seven points to win the match 5-15, 15-10, 15-8.
The victory over Centauri set up a match between Aspen and Weld Central, both 1-1 in the tourney to that point, to see who would join Lutheran in the State tournament.
Weld jumped to an early 10-2 lead, with 5-foot-11 junior Desiree Myhre leading the way with some outstanding work at the net. Aspen cut the lead to 10-5 before surrendering another point to Weld.
Then, after a beautiful spike, Patterson took over on serve for Aspen and Evans and Oakes stepped up at the net to pull the Skiers within 2 points, 11-9.
Weld went on to win the next three points to push Aspen to the brink of defeat, but the Skiers refused to fold. With Dangler playing some fine defense and delivering pinpoint sets to Suiter and Patterson, Aspen rattled off seven unanswered points for a miraculous 16-14 win.
In the second game, the Skiers stayed with Weld in the early going but eventually fell 15-6 to send the match to a third game.
In the final game, Patterson and Shaw served Aspen to a quick 3-1 lead before Weld answered back to take a 6-4 lead. The Skiers tied the game 6-6, but Weld took the next five points and appeared ready to ice the game. But once again, the Skiers fought back. Bergdahl inserted Ali Crum into the lineup, and with Dangler setting and the athletic Crum coming up with some big hits, Aspen cut the lead to 11-8.
Weld pushed its lead to 13-8 before Crum keyed another comeback to make the score 13-11. That was as close as Aspen would get, though, and Weld took the last two points to end the match.
Lutheran and Weld Central will move on to the State playoffs beginning Friday.
For Aspen, the matches Saturday marked the final games for seniors Suiter, Ortmann, Evans, Oakes, Dangler, Shaw, Sarabeth Berk and Lily Melton, a group whose cohesiveness was the key to a fine season, according to Bergdahl, who is in his first season as Aspen’s coach.
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