‘Horns spikers wrap up district title
The road to the 3A state volleyball tournament runs through Basalt.The Longhorns (22-2 overall) made sure of that Saturday after they downed their two fiercest rivals in succession to win the district tournament in Grand Junction. The win locks up home-court advantage for the regional round of 16. Basalt, seeded fourth, will host No. 5 Lamar (22-1), No. 12 Middle Park (17-6) and No. 13 Platte Valley (15-9) on Saturday, with the top two teams advancing to the state tournament at the Denver Coliseum. (See box)Basalt already had a regional berth in the bag after edging Gunnison for the 3A Western Slope title during the regular season. But even with that security, the Longhorns were anything but complacent in Grand Junction.After winning its pool Friday, Basalt edged rival Aspen (25-23, 17-25, 26-24, 25-21) for the third straight time this season Saturday morning, then demolished league runner-up Gunnison (25-9, 25-9, 24-26, 25-21) in the district championship match.”I think we showed everybody who the No. 1 team is,” Basalt coach Dave Drozd said. “With Aspen, if you beat a team three times, you’ve proved you’re the dominant team. And then we simply dominated Gunnison. We played nearly flawless volleyball.”Gunnison, with its runner-up finish, earned the ninth seed in the regional round and will be at top-seeded Colorado Springs Christian on Saturday.The ‘Horns run to the district title didn’t get off to a good start. Basalt knocked off both Olathe and Roaring Fork in three games Friday but then stumbled against Hotchkiss in its final match in pool play. The earlier wins earned the ‘Horns the top seed out of their pool regardless, but the loss to the Bulldogs was upsetting, Drozd said.”Just a different kind of day,” he said. “We did nothing right, but we still managed to win two matches and get first in our pool… It meant nothing, but still, you never like to play down to the level of your competition.”Saturday was a complete turnaround. Against a Skiers team that upset them last year at the district tournament, the Longhorns held on for a 3-1 win. The victory – which ended Aspen’s season at 16-7 – was bittersweet, Drozd said.Aspen helped Basalt earn the league title outright after knocking off Gunnison in its second-to-last regular season match. Members of both local high school teams also play together on club teams during the offseason, Drozd added.”We were very aware of what happened last year,” Drozd said. “That was their motivation with them this year. We were pretty focused.”Aspen coach Matt Bergdahl could not be reached for comment. The win set up the grudge match between the Longhorns and the Cowboys – who split their two regular season meetings. This one wouldn’t be as close as the earlier matches; Basalt rolled to easy wins in the first two games, then lost a tight third game before rebounding in the fourth.In the first win, Basalt junior middle blocker Dayne Toney notched five straight kills to push Basalt to a quick 5-0 lead. Basalt senior Sam Christensen and sophomore Shelby Holmes also thwarted the Cowboys’ ploy of dropping shots over Basalt’s block with a number of clutch digs. Dayne continued to crash the net in second game, finishing with nine kills while Holmes and sophomore Heather Nemiec finished with three kills apiece.Senior Bailey Holmes added eight digs and Christensen had seven.The third game had four lead changes and was tied at 24 before Gunnison took the win with two straight points – both off net fouls called on Toney.Other than those infractions, Toney again dominated, finishing with seven kills, followed by Shelby Holmes with four.Now that his team has won a league title and a district title to earn home-court advantage, Drozd hopes Basalt’s student body will help create that advantage.Despite its success, support for the Longhorns this year has been disappointing, the coach said.”It’s been a joke at times,” he said. “I cannot believe it. I don’t know what it is with this school, but it’s been awful at times. I don’t know what we have to do to get people there.”The lack of support has served as extra motivation, however, Drozd added.”Really, to be honest, I don’t have to say much to the girls,” he said. “A lot of the girls are so determined to prove everybody wrong… I’m not worried about next weekend. We’ve played well all season long in pressure matches. It’s when we play the lower-level competition that we struggle. I just don’t want the girls to think about it too much, and get nervous about how big this really is.” Regional pairingsFirst match No. 5 Lamar vs. No. 12 Middle Park Second match No. 4 Basalt vs. No. 13 Platte Valley Third match No. 5 Lamar vs. No. 13 Platte Valley Fourth match No. 4 Basalt vs. No. 12 Middle Park Fifth match No. 12 Middle Park vs. No. 13 Platte Valley Sixth match No. 4 Basalt vs. No. 5 Lamar Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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