Basalt outlasts Rifle in five-set thriller | AspenTimes.com

Basalt outlasts Rifle in five-set thriller

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Jim Ryan/Special to The Aspen TimesBasalt's Annie Wells attempts a spike as Rifle's Racheal Keithley defends Thursday at Basalt High School.

BASALT – Basalt head volleyball coach Mike Whittlef projected an air of calmness on the bench Thursday night. He must have been stewing on the inside, however.

“It’s just frustrating,” the first-year coach said. “They know how to play. Sometimes they just don’t.”

Whittlef’s Longhorns looked like they would make quick work of visiting Rifle after dominating the first two games. The winless Bears did not go down without a fight, however, battling back to force a deciding fifth game.

Basalt turned it on when it mattered most, jumping out to an 8-4 lead in the final frame. It wound up pulling out a five-point win, clinching a 25-9, 25-19, 18-25, 22-25, 15-10 victory.

“They started playing again [in Game 5],” Whittlef said. “They wanted to win.”

That much appeared evident early, as the Longhorns jumped out to an 8-2, Game 1 lead. They closed the game with seven straight points, six of them coming on Rifle miscues.

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Basalt (4-3) parlayed that momentum into a fast start in the second game. Annie Wells and Stephanie Alvarado produced kills to spark a 10-3 opening run. Four consecutive errors from the Longhorns allowed the Bears (0-10) to make things interesting – at least for a few moments.

Basalt scored six of the final eight points, securing a two-game lead after Rifle’s Melissa Crow hit a shot that clipped the net.

The Longhorns’ errors began to pile up in Game 3, however. The Bears took advantage.

“We’re definitely a snowball team,” said Whittlef. “We just fell apart.”

A Basalt player hit a shot well wide, then another was whistled for a lift, giving Rifle a 22-15 lead. Later, Edith Garcia drilled the hardwood with a well-placed cross-court kill to seal a Bears win and extend the match.

In the fourth game, Rifle battled back from a deficit that ballooned to six points. Longhorns junior Emily Timroth’s errant kill attempt tied the game at 16, then, after the two squads exchanged the lead multiple times, the Bears went ahead for good at 22-21 following another Basalt miscue at the net.

Lauren Potter squared the match at two games apiece with an ace.

“[I told the girls] to play their own game, to pick their heads up,” Whittlef said.

His team responded. The Longhorns scored six straight points to break a four-all tie and seize control in the deciding game. Rifle could pull no closer than three down the stretch.

Basalt will look to extend its current winning streak to four when it visits Cedaredge at noon Saturday.

jmaletz@aspentimes.com