Aspen spikers withstand late Roaring Fork charge | AspenTimes.com

Aspen spikers withstand late Roaring Fork charge

Jon Maletz

Aspen senior Brittany Zanin reaches up to spike a ball Thursday against visiting Roaring Fork. The Skiers defeated the Rams, 3-2. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Aspen’s girls volleyball team was cruising against visiting Roaring Fork.The Skiers (9-2 overall, 5-1 3A Western Slope) won the match’s first two games and held a comfortable advantage in Game 3. Little more than 30 minutes later, however, Skiers head coach Matt Bergdahl was shaking his head as Aspen faced a fifth game.The Skiers overcame their sluggish and inconsistent play, stringing together 10 consecutive points in the deciding game to pull away from the Rams and win the match, 3-2.”I think we were the better team, but inconsistent play is what is making each match a challenge,” Bergdahl said. “Lucky for us we know how to win, but they’re making me old in the process.”

Aspen jumped out to a 21-16 lead in Game 3 on the strength of its play at the net and some untimely Rams errors. It looked to close out the match. Roaring Fork would not wilt, however. They closed with nine consecutive points to win the game, 25-21. Miscommunication between Aspen seniors Brittany Zanin and Kyla Walter near the back line allowed a Rams serve to drop to the hardwood, tying the game at 21. After Roaring Fork took a three-point advantage when a kill attempt was partially blocked but fell in, Bergdahl slammed his clipboard in frustration. The Rams clinched the game when a Skiers passing shot sailed long.Roaring Fork pulled to within one game. It had new life.”I knew we wouldn’t give up without a fight,” Rams coach Kacey Daugherty said. “Our attitude really changed. I think we wanted those games more.”

The two teams exchanged points and leads through much of the fourth game. With the score knotted at 12 – the sixth tie of the game – Roaring Fork went on a 5-0 run. Three Aspen mishits at the net were sandwiched between an ace and an emphatic kill by Rams senior Erica Pelland – her second of three in the game. Consecutive Skiers errors helped the Rams clinch the 25-21 win and force a fifth game.”We have the ability to go ahead and to run over people,” Bergdahl said. “The letdowns are a mental aspect of the game, and this season will be about finding a way to match our mental strength with our physical skills.”We need to learn how to close the deal.”The Skiers, who have won four matches since their loss to rival Basalt Sept. 15, got the message. After the Rams tied Game 5 at three when another ball fell between two Aspen defenders, Aspen scored 10 consecutive points to all but seal the victory.

“We gave them too much of a lead,” Daugherty said. “We tried to fight back, but it was too late.”During that stretch, Aspen senior Megan Raczak had two kills, and Roaring Fork committed six errors. Raczak’s first kill grazed the fingers of a wall of Rams defenders but could not be controlled; on the second, she chased down an errant pass and lined a ball to a vacant spot on the opposite side. Raczak’s third kill stretched the Aspen lead to 14-8. The Skiers clinched the 15-9 Game 5 victory and match win when a Rams defender was whistled for clutching the net. “I knew if we let up, Roaring Fork would’ve gotten us,” Bergdahl said. “[The Rams] never gave up. We are lucky to have gotten away with this one.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com.