Coal Ridge sweeps Aspen in Slope volleyball finale
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN – Friday’s Aspen-Coal Ridge football game hung in the balance until the final seconds, when an interception return for a touchdown propelled the Titans to victory.
Saturday’s volleyball match between the two schools was devoid of drama. Visiting Coal Ridge amassed substantial early leads in Games 1 and 2 and overcame some sluggish play down the stretch to spoil senior night with a 25-19, 25-20, 25-20 sweep.
“The tone was set early tonight,” Skiers head coach Clay Dahlman said. “In that first game … I think the girls were put in an underdog position. I know them, and they had a tough time believing in themselves.
“I think the white flag came out a little too early, and we weren’t able to recover from that.”
This 3A Western Slope battle featured two teams that already had secured spots in next week’s districts. Aspen (8-11 overall, 8-10 conference) was assured of finishing fifth in the final standings regardless of Saturday’s outcome.
It played like it.
The Skiers lacked their typical energy from the outset. The Titans (14-5, 14-4), who dispatched Basalt in three games earlier in the day, took advantage.
Christa Currier and Zoe Reece produced back-to-back kills to open Game 1, sparking an 8-3 Coal Ridge run. Aspen twice pulled to within four but could do little to slow Currier and Rebecca Mitchell, who efficiently controlled the net and contested nearly every Skiers shot.
A slew of unforced errors did not help Aspen’s cause. The Titans sealed game one on a Skiers lift and, after exchanging points early in Game 2, capitalized on three consecutive Aspen miscues to pull ahead, 8-4.
After an error of its own, Coal Ridge scored five of the next six points to seize control at 13-6.
“We had hopes of bringing higher energy to this match, but we didn’t quite execute that plan,” Dahlman admitted. “We were right there, but we didn’t see the heroics that help drive Aspen to play at their highest level.”
Those heroics were on full display Tuesday night, when the Skiers pulled out a 32-30, Game 3 victory to extend their match with high-powered Roaring Fork. They pushed the Rams to a fifth game before falling.
Dahlman said that effort bodes well for his squad going forward, but he hinted that it might have worn his team out.
It sure appeared that way Saturday, as the Aspen errors continued to pile up. The Skiers misfired on a kill and a dig, then hit a serve well long in the latter stages of Game 2, helping the Titans all but put this match away.
The two sides shared the lead five times during a tight third game, but three consecutive Skiers miscues helped Coal Ridge pull ahead for good at 18-15.
Kayla Hinkley finished off Aspen with a strong kill up the center of the court on match point.
The Skiers, losers of three of their last four matches to close out the regular season, will look to rebound on the road next Saturday. They’ll be making their first districts appearance since Dahlman’s first season as head coach four years ago.
“The plan was to use this as a big, explosive finish … and help us roll with that momentum. That didn’t happen,” Dahlman said.
“We’re traveling to Gunnison on Saturday to play some teams we feel we can compete very strongly against. … We’ll fight for everything. When they execute and play at their highest level, they can do it.”
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