Aspen spikers swept away at Lamar districts | AspenTimes.com
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Aspen spikers swept away at Lamar districts

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

LAMAR, Colo. ” Tough day, but extraordinary season.

Such was the message Aspen volleyball head coach Clay Dahlman imparted to his players Saturday as they took off their jerseys for the final time this season. While the day didn’t play out like anyone in the program had hoped ” Three losses in three matches in the district tournament to host Lamar, Monta Vista and Rye ” Dahlman said afterward that he didn’t want to lose sight of how far the Skiers have come in one year.

Last season, Aspen won just three games. In 2008, it went 12-10 and finished fifth in the 3A Western Slope.

“The girls had a tough time today … we just couldn’t step up to the plate,” Dahlman said. “We were going against some strong quality teams here. We had some decent performances and some glimpses of glory, but it wasn’t enough to pick up the two wins we needed.”

The Skiers came out strong in their opening match with Tri Peaks-East champion Lamar, trading points for much of the first game. Madison Murdoch led the charge with three aces as Aspen looked to take an early lead. Things unraveled down the stretch, however, with a string of inopportune passing and hitting errors, and the Savages won Game 1, 25-18.

They parlayed that victory into a sweep, outscoring the Skiers, 50-25, in the final two games.

“They really took that momentum and we weren’t able to recover,” Dahlman said. “In a game that tight going up against a team like Lamar, you don’t have any room for error. They caught us.”

Still, Dahlman said his team’s performance gave him hope. And, as he told his players, the Skiers could still assure themselves a spot in regionals with wins over Monta Vista and Rye. Two teams from each district advance to the next round.

“I told them to leave that match behind, to get it all out of their systems,” Dahlman said. “They knew the pressure was on.”

That pressure seemed to weigh on Aspen in the first game of its match with Monta Vista, which it dropped, 11-25. The Skiers showcased some resiliency, pulling even after a 25-19 Game 2 win fueled by the play of front-line mates Elissa Walter and Katie Evans, who missed the first match to take the ACT. Murdoch chipped in with 16 digs.

The momentum was short-lived, however, as Aspen dropped the third and fourth games, 21-25 and 19-25, to fall to 0-2 on the day.

Walter and Evans combined for 15 kills in the match, Kylie Westerlind piled up 26 assists and Caroline Kelly blocked nine shots.

“We fought back and looked like we had it,” Dahlman said. “Then it fizzled out.”

Consequently, the Skiers were all but eliminated from contention before their afternoon match with Rye. Still, Dahlman implored his players to finish strong.

They heeded his words at first, scoring nine of Game 1’s first 10 points. But the Thunderbolts responded with a 24-6 run to pull out a 10-point win.

The strain of playing three matches in one day took its toll as Aspen faltered in the final two games, losing 23-25 and 20-25.

“Our blockers did a really great job, but we didn’t counter with a real serious offensive attack,” Dahlman said. “We weren’t as aggressive as we can be. We got a little tentative … I tried to give the girls some will power, but we couldn’t quite do it.”

Walter led the team with 27 kills on the day, while Evans added 15. Kelly had 16 blocks ” bringing her year-long total to nearly 100, Dahlman said ” and Westerlind finished with 53 assists.

“Spirits were high coming into today, but we didn’t quite fire at full throttle,” the coach added. “But overall, I’m happy with the effort and proud of what we’ve accomplished. … We counted on our seniors for leadership this year. I almost feel like they’re the ones who lit the torch and created a nice sort of standard here.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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