Skiers spikers avoid collapse | AspenTimes.com

Skiers spikers avoid collapse

Nate Peterson

Aspen senior Megan Raczak goes up for a kill Tuesday night as teammate Elissa Walter looks on during a home match against Meeker. The Skiers won, 3-1. (Mark Fox/The Aspen TImes)

Six matches into the 2006 season and the Aspen’s girls volleyball team hasn’t gotten rid of its bad habits from last year.Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over visiting 2A Meeker, however, was a step in the right direction. Last year, the Skiers blew a two-game lead against the Cowboys (not Cowgirls) to lose in the fifth-game tiebreaker. The Skiers were able to avoid a repeat collapse Tuesday. Aspen rallied to wins in the first two games (25-19, 25-20), then fell apart in a 25-16 loss in the third game.Down 8-5 in the fourth game, Aspen’s seniors refused to let the match get away from them. Keyed by the setting of senior Robin Landis,the Skiers went on a 10-1 run, then held off a late run from the Cowboys. Landis continued to serve up assists to senior teammates Haley Ortman and Kyla Walter during the critical run. Ortman hadfive kills in the game, the most crucial coming after Meeker rallied back to tie the game at 21.

On a long, cross-court set from Landis, Ortman crushed a ball through Meeker’s block to give Aspen a sideout. Senior teammate Brittany Zanin followed with an ace, then served up the final two points after two separate Meeker players hit balls into the net.”We’ve always been a team that likes to catch up for some reason,” Ortman said afterward. “I don’t know why, but we’re that kind of team. We’re going to learn how to start off better here, though.””We like to make it suspenseful for some reason,” added Landis, who led the Skiers with 27 assists. “I think our confidence was a little too high. We kind of let up a little bit, lost our train of thought and got behind and couldn’t pull it together there for a while.”Aspen coach Matt Bergdahl smiled when asked out his team’s split personality. The Skiers trailed 5-1 at the start of the first three games, and were down 3-1 in the final game. The third game was also similar to previous games last year when the Skiers played tenatively while trying to protect a lead. There was a little bit of everything in the third game: bad serves, spikes into the net, and balls that dropped to the floor when two Aspen players couldn’t decide who had called for it.Then, when it became apparent that the Cowboys had no intention of giving in during the tight fourth game, and that the match was still at stake, Aspen played its best volleyball of the night.

The Skiers’ back line continued to dig up the Cowboys’ shots, and Landis spread the ball to an assortment of hitters. She also added two kills of her own on nicely placed drop shots.”I don’t have a real set reason for why we get ourselves in a hole then come charging out of it,” Bergdahl said. “It’s a pattern that we’ve had over the years, and I’m trying to break it right now. I’m trying to find that magic key where we start ahead and stay ahead.”Still, a win is a win. With the victory, the Skiers improved to 5-1 overall heading into their match Friday night at rival Basalt. The last time the two teams met, at the district tournament last year, Aspen finally picked up a win after blowing two-game leads in both of the regular-season matches.Bergdahl wants to avoid a repeat of the those two disappointing defeats by getting off to a fast start Friday.”I want the girls to play to win always,” he said. “Any time you play to protect a lead, play to not make a mistake, then you’re thinking too much and you’re not doing what we practiced. You practice 100 percent. When they don’t do what we do in practice, they don’t play well.”

Ortman led the Skiers with 14 kills, followed by Walter who finished with 11 with a high of four in the fourth game. Senior Megan Raczak tallied two blocks in the first game and finished with four total. Landis assisted Raczak on two of the stuffs.First-year Meeker coach Christy Atwood said she was proud of her player’s resilience after they dropped the first two games.”This is the seventh match, and we’re really starting to pull things together,” she said. “It’s great to see what kind of character they have when they can battle back like that.”Aspen’s only loss this season came in its league opener Saturday at Hotchkiss – last year’s 3A Western Slope champion.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

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