Longhorns can’t scale Battle Mountain | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns can’t scale Battle Mountain

Jon Maletz

Basalt sophomore Alia Munger digs a ball during the second game against Battle Mountain Thursday. The visiting Huskies swept the match. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

The reasons why the Basalt girls’ volleyball team would not play well Thursday could have filled the pages of a novel. The team has no seniors; its star player in the middle looked on from the sidelines, wearing a splint on her right foot instead of a sneaker. The Longhorns opened their season at home against a formidable opponent in Battle Mountain, a team that was bigger, packed more punch at the net and had dismantled three previous opponents by a combined score of 9-0.Starting a third game after being outscored 50-28 and staring at a 2-0 deficit, it would have been easy for the Longhorns (4-2, 0-0) to think about their next match, against Gunnison. Even crowds in the gym bleachers had started to thin out. But instead of shutting down entirely, Basalt chose to make one last push. One more characteristic was added to this team’s seemingly bottomless tank of enthusiasm and energy: heart.It would have been easy to quit, but the Longhorns battled until one final Battle Mountain spike sealed a 25-18 game-three Huskies victory and the 3-0 sweep.

“The intensity was there all the way through that third game, and if we can get that type of effort in the first and second, we’re gonna be tough,” Longhorns assistant coach Dave Drozd said. “If we stay positive, I’m sure we’re gonna improve.”Basalt traded serves with Battle Mountain throughout much of the third game. Following a strong set by junior Elisabeth Nemiec, junior Cassie Meyer’s spike attempt painted the back corner of the court, giving the Longhorns a 10-8 lead. They would stretch the lead to three, their largest of the match, when a Huskies spike attempt sailed wide of the end line.Basalt players, who had at one point in the second game ducked instead of going for a block at the net, were finally playing more aggressively and moving quicker. They routinely challenged the taller Huskies hitters. They started to move more crisply. And sophomore Alia Munger’s one-handed attempt to dig a fast-diving spike drew the loudest applause of the night from fans and coaches.The Huskies closed out the match on a 10-3 run, but disappointment did not invade the opposing sideline. Rather, a sense of accomplishment and optimism painted the flushed faces of Basalt players.

“They were a very strong team, but I think we improved our play against them every game,” Nemiec said. “We can definitely take positives away from this. We played aggressive at the net and hung in there against a school who is stronger than most we’ll face in our league.” While positive improvement was apparent, nagging concerns did not entirely fade from view or consciousness. Communications issues resulted in missed assignments and volleyballs falling aimlessly to the hardwood.The Longhorns started strong in each of the first two games, but after falling behind, their concentration and focus wavered. After Basalt pulled into a tie with the Huskies at 6-6 in the first, consecutive Battle Mountain aces sparked a 21-10 run to close out the game. Following a 5-5 tie to start the second, Battle Mountain ended on a 20-7 run, showcasing its power, depth and an efficient service game.”The girls played well. They stayed within our system and were able to execute, which is always what you want,” said Battle Mountain coach Brian Doyon, whose team is ranked fifth in 4A. “We delivered tonight. We have our first true test of the season coming up with [5A] Grand Junction Central this weekend, so we’ll see how well we play there.”

Basalt followed its first lost of the season Saturday against North Park with a convincing win against Rangely later that afternoon. The Longhorns are hopeful another quick turnaround will produce a similar result today when they travel to Gunnison to open 3A Western Slope play.The team is progressing and proved it can compete against a larger school, Drozd said, but it’s a slow process.”They started to listen to their coaches and started to move better,” Longhorns head coach Erin Holmes said. “I don’t know that if we had played as well as we could, the score would’ve been much different, but we definitely didn’t play our best.” Jon Maletz can be reached at jmaletz@aspentimes.com.

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