Surging Aspen volleyball team sweeps Rifle | AspenTimes.com

Surging Aspen volleyball team sweeps Rifle

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Rustin Gudim/The Aspen TimesSkiers junior Nevada Crandall flicks the ball over the net during Tuesday's match against Rifle at Aspen High School.

ASPEN – While its postseason prospects look bleak, the Aspen volleyball team still appears to be playing with purpose.

The Skiers’ late-season surge continued Tuesday against visiting Rifle.

Aspen overcame deficits in each game with some solid play to pull out a 25-23, 25-21, 25-21 senior-night victory – its sixth in the last eight games.

“We’ve wanted to do it for each other, to finish out our senior year strong,” Madison Murdoch said. “After the 1-9 start, we didn’t expect to be in this spot. … It’s a really pleasant surprise.”

Added head coach Clay Dahlman: “They just continue to fight.”

That was evident throughout Tuesday’s match with the 1-16 Bears.

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During one stretch in Game 1, the Skiers committed eight consecutive errors, giving Rifle an 18-14 advantage. Undeterred, Aspen slowly worked its way back, scoring four of the next five to pull to within one.

Moments later, Murdoch converted consecutive kills to put her squad ahead for good at 21-20. The Skiers sealed the win when a Bears serve clipped the net.

The two sides shared the lead nine times during a tight second game. With Aspen trailing by two at 19-17, junior Bailey Everhart finally broke things open, executing a perfect drop shot to spark a 9-2 run to help the Skiers seize control of the match.

“We try to teach them in practice that they’re never out of it until the game is over,” Dahlman said. “Tonight, we made some mistakes but were quick to make adjustments. It’s a mental adjustment, too.

“They never gave up, even in situations where things were not comfortable.”

Rifle opened the third game with a 6-2 run highlighted by Allison Powell’s block and Ashley Rickstrew’s ace. Aspen answered right back, however, scoring seven of the next nine points.

After exchanging the lead multiple times, the Skiers finally gained some separation down the stretch. Murdoch produced an acrobatic kill, then the Bears committed consecutive errors to give Aspen a 20-17 cushion. Later, Everhart converted another drop shot to extend the lead to six.

Rifle pulled to as close as three but was undone by miscues. Rickstrew’s kill attempt on game point sailed well long, securing the Skiers’ sweep.

In Aspen’s last eight contests, it has lost to only Roaring Fork and Gunnison – two of the 3A Western Slope’s top three teams.

Saturday’s loss to the Cowboys could prove costly, however; The Skiers squandered a 17-10, Game 4 lead and wound up suffering a 3-1 defeat that left their chances for earning a postseason berth in serious jeopardy.

There is still a mathematical chance should they beat Coal Ridge on Friday (6 p.m.) in Peach Valley, but, as Dahlman said, “It would be a bit of a mini miracle.”

“If we started [the season] a little less cold, we could’ve been right there,” the coach lamented. “Still, this has been a heck of a finish to the season. … We still want to prove to ourselves … that we can finish with dignity and compete at the highest level.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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