Basalt spikers net regional crown | AspenTimes.com

Basalt spikers net regional crown

Jon Maletz

Lamar sophomore Brittany Higgins goes up for a kill as Longhorns senior Samantha Christensen defends Saturday during the regional volleyball tournament at Basalt High School. Basalt went 3-0 to clinch a spot in next week's state tournament at the Denver Coliseum. Play begins Friday. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

Bailey Holmes was speechless.The Basalt senior outside striker struggled to find the words to express what she saw, moments after the Longhorns clinched the regional volleyball tournament in less-than-dramatic fashion. Top-seeded Basalt dominated, going 9-0 in its three wins to clinch a spot in the state tournament, which begins Friday at the Denver Coliseum. There, the top two teams from each of the state’s four regions will compete for the state title.The region’s other three teams – No. 2 Lamar, No. 3 Middle Park and No. 4 Platte Valley – all went 1-2 during competition and were left to battle it out late Saturday for the remaining state spot.”I had hoped we would move on, but I never expected it to happen this way,” Holmes said. “It definitely wasn’t easy. After that last game in districts, we picked up some momentum, and somehow it transferred over.”Basalt (25-2), which had already wrapped up a regional berth by virtue of its regular-season 3A Western Slope title, was anything but complacent at the district tournament in Grand Junction on Oct. 29. They bested rival Aspen and league runner-up Gunnison in succession to earn the district crown and home-court advantage for regional play.

The Longhorns couldn’t be slowed Saturday, either. They outscored Platte Valley, 75-46, en route to a straight-game victory in their first match. They then took down Middle Park, 26-24, 27-25, 29-27. The win, coupled with the other team’s troubles, guaranteed the 2-0 ‘Horns one of the two state spots. Lamar, which won the tournament’s first game against Middle Park, dropped its second match in straight games to Platte Valley. Therefore, the best it could hope for was to beat Basalt in its third game to create a tie for the top spot.Basalt wasn’t about to let that happen.”We played phenomenal. 9-0, what more do I have to say?” Basalt coach Dave Drozd said. “We talked about this, but they went out and put on a display. Every girl stepped it up, and we dominated.”Basalt and Lamar traded points for much of the opening game, exchanging the lead 10 times. But the Longhorns, on the strength of a 5-0 run, took a 20-15 advantage. Savages coach Brian Lauritsen was forced to take a timeout.

Basalt then came out and scored four straight, on a kill from junior Dayne Toney, a net violation and two errant Lamar shots, to all but seal the game. They clinched the victory when a Savages serve sailed long.Lamar, which struggled during its earlier matches, came out firing in the second game to take a 19-11 lead. Undaunted, Basalt found a way to seize momentum. It started with a kill from sophomore Shelby Holmes, who was the catalyst behind her team’s ensuing 5-0 run. Her two aces were sandwiched in between three Lamar net violations. The Longhorns pulled to within 3 at 21-18.From there, the two teams exchanged the lead six different times. With the score tied at 27, Basalt was the beneficiary of a shot that sailed long and a mishandled serve on consecutive points and completed the improbable comeback.”They always seem to find a way. They’ve been doing it all year,” Drozd said. “When the pressure is on, we perform.”The Longhorns delivered the ultimate exclamation point in Game 3. They opened with a 10-2 run on the strength of the play of Toney and Bailey Holmes at the net and some well-placed serves. They stretched the lead to 14 and cruised to the 25-10 victory. A Lamar serve into the net sealed the regional title for the Longhorns.

The tension, at least for a moment, had lifted as Bailey Holmes and fellow senior Liz Nemiec embraced.”We always wanted to make it this far at least once in high school,” Holmes said. “This puts the icing on the cake. We’ve worked so hard for four years, and now it’s happening.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com