No. 5 ‘Horns spikers hold off Skiers | AspenTimes.com

No. 5 ‘Horns spikers hold off Skiers

Nate Peterson

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

The rally was almost a foregone conclusion.Even after Basalt’s volleyball team took a 2-1 game lead Tuesday night at Aspen, and jumped out to a 14-5 advantage in the fourth game, Basalt head coach Dave Drozd knew the Skiers weren’t finished.Not on their home floor. And not against their fiercest rivals.The Skiers’ rally did come in the form of a frantic 11-1 run that knotted the game at 15. But then the Longhorns (16-1, 11-1 3A Western Slope) turned the tables, going on a 10-4 run to close out the game and keep their league title hopes alive. Basalt’s four-game win (24-26, 25-20, 25-16, 25-20) leaves the Longhorns tied atop the league standings with Gunnison (16-1, 11-1) – the team Basalt knocked off in five games Saturday.”You’re never comfortable against these guys,” Drozd said after the win over Aspen. “The big thing is that we played with composure. It’s volleyball, it’s going to be up and down, but what’s important is we don’t get down on each other. I’m just so proud of the girls.”

After being swept in the season series, Aspen (11-5, 7-4) now only can help its downvalley rivals. The Skiers host the Cowboys – who they played tough in the first meeting – on Friday night, before they close out the season Saturday with Olathe.Basalt is at Roaring Fork Friday, then closes out the regular season Saturday against Cedaredge.Aspen took Basalt to five games in the first meeting in mid September, and looked in control after a tight 26-24 win in the first game, but fell apart in the final three games.The Skiers gave Basalt all it could handle at times, but those stretches were balanced out by spells chock full of serving mistakes, hitting errors and an overall lack of communication.”Obviously we didn’t play mistake-free ball tonight,” Aspen coach Matt Bergdahl said. “The key with Basalt is keeping the pressure on them and keeping the ball in play. After the first game, we had trouble just setting and serving the ball. I think the difference was Basalt’s serving game. They served well, we didn’t.”Still, the Skiers proved they can play with Basalt whenever they aren’t playing against themselves. The match was marked by the trademark momentum swings and dramatic rallies that have characterized the rivalry the past two seasons.

Basalt jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the first game, before the Skiers battled back to tie it at 13. The game then was tied four more times, before Aspen broke a 24-24 stalemate by forcing two Basalt errors. The last point came when Basalt’s Heather Nemiec and Shelby Holmes didn’t call the ball on a Skiers’ serve and failed to come up with a return. Basalt’s win in the second game was highlighted by a long rally early on that energized the Longhorns and took the life out of the Skiers. Basalt junior Alia Munger made a wild dive to dig an Aspen spike and keep the point alive, and after the ball traded sides four times, Aspen’s Brittany Zanin hit long on a spike. The point put Basalt up 11-8 and keyed a 9-4 run from the Longhorns.The Skiers worst game was the third, where Basalt jumped to a 14-9 lead and never looked back. Basalt senior setter Elisabeth Nemiec had nine assists in the win, while senior outside hitter Bailey Holmes added an ace and a kill, and junior middle blocker Dayne Toney had three kills.The momentum carried into the fourth game where Basalt again took a big lead before Aspen battled back to nearly steal a win. The Skiers forced Basalt into nine hitting errors during an 11-2 run. Aspen also got a huge block from Kyla Walter on Basalt’s Robin Landis and a cannon blast of a kill from senior outside hitter Haley Ortmann. Ortmann launched a shot at Bailey Holmes that came so fast all Holmes could do was put up her hands to protect her face.”I think we thought we had it in the bag,” Bailey Holmes said. “They came back and it bit us in the butt a little bit. Coming in, we didn’t really know what to expect, because we played them so early. We’ve improved, but they’ve also improved a lot.”

After knotting the score at 16, the Skiers couldn’t keep their momentum to force the fifth-game tiebreaker.Toney took over at the front of the net and delivered three kills, including the game winner, while Bailey Holmes and Shelby Holmes each added a kill.”We always do that where we come back, then we let up when we tie the game back up,” Zanin said. “We catch up and then it’s like we relax. … Our communication just wasn’t there tonight. We broke down pretty easily. It might have been nerves, I don’t know. Whatever it was, we definitely had an off night.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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