Aspen volleyball team handles Basalt, wins its home opener in three sets
Two matches into the season, both against rivals, and the Aspen High School volleyball team is making it look awfully easy. A week after sweeping through Roaring Fork in their season opener in Carbondale, the Skiers did much the same Thursday against Basalt in their home opener.
Aspen won 3-0 by set scores of 25-6, 25-14 and 25-9 inside the AHS gymnasium.
“I do like what I’m seeing so far. It’s faster than I’ve seen them play and it’s getting cleaner each day,” AHS coach Bailey Holmes said. “The experience just brings out the confidence, so they are more wiling to try new things, like quicker sets and stuff like that.”
Fresh of their best season in nine years and returning the majority of that team, Aspen is a squad with high expectations this fall. The Skiers entered Thursday’s match as the highest vote-getter to not be ranked in the Class 3A top 10 by CHSAANow.com. WSL rival and perennial powerhouse Coal Ridge is No. 9.
“We are confident,” AHS senior Gaia Murphy said. “I think our energy on the court really drives our confidence. We are coming out with a boom, and it’s been really exciting so far. I’m so excited for the rest of the season.”
The Skiers made easy work of Basalt, jumping out to an 8-0 lead in the first set en route to the 25-6 win. Basalt’s only lead of the match came early in the second set before Aspen ran away with the match.
With Murphy, the team’s setter, serving, Aspen jumped out to a 15-0 lead in the third set before BHS put together a few minor runs late. She even had the serve for the final point, an ace.
“Serving is really my favorite part of the game,” Murphy said. “It’s in your control and it’s really just that moment before the ball goes over the net that’s your time.”
At 2-0, Aspen next plays Saturday at Olathe (2-6) before traveling to Phoenix, Arizona, later in the week for a two-day tournament. Holmes said the team should play seven matches in the desert with “tall girls and fast play, which is what we are hoping for.”
Murphy, who transferred to Aspen last year from Los Angeles, expects to see some of her old comrades, as many of the teams playing in Phoenix will be from California.
“It’s going to be fun playing against girls I’ve been playing with for seven years,” she said. “It’s going to be great competition for us to really get better and take that next step.”
Aspen’s next home match isn’t until Oct. 2, when it hosts Coal Ridge in a crucial WSL matchup. The Skiers will see the Longhorns once again on Oct. 9 down in Basalt.
While the Skiers are a veteran group, the Longhorns are mostly inexperienced sophomores and showed it for much of the contest Thursday. Still, BHS coach David Chadbourne liked some of the fight his team showed against a superior opponent.
“They definitely have grit, and I think that’s going to serve them well in the future when they get a little more experience,” Chadbourne said. “The fact that they are getting the nerves out of the way right now is a good thing, because they won’t be dealing with that in the coming years.”
Basalt fell to 2-6 with the loss. The Longhorns will turn around and host Rifle (1-8) on Saturday afternoon before traveling to Roaring Fork on Tuesday.
“We had higher expectations this season,” Chadbourne said, “and I’m not giving up on that because we have a lot of season left, but they are going to have to work.”
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.