Longhorns spikers rally back for win | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns spikers rally back for win

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

BASALT The Basalt spikers finally lost a game – and nearly their perfect record.Fresh off five consecutive sweeps, the Longhorns were confronted with an unfamiliar 2-1 deficit in Thursday’s match against visiting Olathe. Basalt proved resilient, however, staving off elimination with strong, timely play to force a deciding fifth game. Senior Kat Fitzpatrick sealed the match with a kill, and the Longhorns prevailed, 3-2, in a battle of the 3A Western Slope’s top teams. “I’m exhilarated,” Basalt coach Clay Dahlman said. “We proved we could fight back under really tough conditions.”Basalt (12-0 overall, 7-0 3A Western Slope), which swept seven teams in its first 12 matches, stretched its lead in the Slope standings to two over the Pirates (6-2, 4-2). It was far from easy, however.The Longhorns closed Game 1 on a 8-4 run sparked by consecutive kills from Fitzpatrick and senior Dayne Toney and won, 25-20. All momentum gained was lost, however, in a deflating second game in which the two teams exchanged leads 13 times. A lane violation helped Basalt knot the score at 24 and spoil Olathe’s first game point of the match. The Longhorns pulled ahead on the ensuing point when junior Shelby Holmes drilled a crosscourt kill. A game, enthusiastic Pirates team responded. After a Basalt cross sailed long, as did Toney’s attempted kill, Olathe’s Paige Markley evened the match with a shot that penetrated a wall of Basalt defenders. The Pirates parlayed that victory into an impressive 25-19 win in Game 3. They jumped out to leads of 8-3 and 13-5, and Basalt, despite closing with a 10-2 run, could get no closer than six points. The defending Slope and district champions looked tentative on routine plays. They looked lost. “When we’re on, we’re really on, and when we’re off, we’re really off,” Basalt junior Heather Nemiec said. “They were scrappy. They got everything up and back over.”The best thing you can do in a time like that is stop and take a deep breath.”Basalt utilized its vast size advantage on the front line to jump ahead early in Game 4. Toney, Nemiec, Holmes and Fitzpatrick each had at least one kill during an eight-point span in which the Longhorns stretched their lead to 9-5. The advantage ballooned to 11 at 24-13 after an 8-1 run fueled by multiple unforced Pirates errors. Basalt squared the match with a 25-17 win after a Pirates kill attempt clipped the net, and fell harmlessly to the hardwood. “That’s how volleyball is when you have two solid teams,” Olathe coach Dan Rosentreter said of the momentum shifts. “As hard as our girls played, it would’ve been nice to come out with a win. You can’t take anything away from our kids and the effort they played with.”Two kills and two aces from Toney and a block highlighted a 7-1 stretch that helped Basalt vault ahead, 11-5, in the deciding game. Fitzpatrick quelled all hopes of a Pirates comeback when she rose high to kill a set from Kehau Vegas and secure the 15-11 win. Basalt, a team that had appeared lost, found its stride. And, after one run through the Slope, the Longhorns have reaffirmed their position as the league’s preeminent team.”We were getting a little bit comfortable and haven’t had many challenges,” Dahlman said. “Getting scared like this is a huge advantage for the rest of the season.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com