‘Horns volleyball clinches league title
BASALT The Basalt spikers were stunned.After a first game Tuesday against Hotchkiss that was surprisingly similar to Game 1 of the Longhorns’ Oct. 5 matchup with Coal Ridge, Basalt found itself in a rare early hole after a 25-16 loss. First-year coach Clay Dahlman pulled his team aside.”I told them this should be a wake-up call,” he said. “If they thought they could come up here and take a team for granted, that team will surprise you. … Unexpected things can happy very quickly.”As can the expected. Basalt, which dropped its match against Coal Ridge – the only blip to date on a sparkling 3A Western Slope resumé – regrouped and silenced a spirited Gunnison crowd. The Longhorns reeled off three straight wins, outscoring the Cowboys, 75-48, to clinch its second consecutive conference title.Basalt (17-1 overall, 12-1 conference) hosts Roaring Fork on Friday in its regular season finale. With a win, the Longhorns would equal the conference mark set by last year’s team. The 2006 Basalt squad was the first to reach state since 1978.With the win, Basalt assured itself of a spot in regionals regardless of the outcome of the district tournament, which begins Oct. 26 in Grand Junction. But Dahlman has remained mum on his team’s status when talking with his girls, he said.”Our strategy is to take it match by match and find out at the conclusion where we are and what the implications are,” he said. “There’s not one match we can take lightly.”Sixth-ranked Basalt, which swept Hotchkiss on Sept. 22, overcame its early lapse Tuesday. The change was fueled by cleaning up serving errors, adjusting its blocking defense to counter the Bulldogs’ big hitters, and by showcasing variety in its offensive sets, Dahlman said.The plan worked, as the Longhorns squared the match with a 25-16 win. They followed up that performance with victories of 25-15 and 25-17 to seal the match.Senior Dayne Toney led the way with 19 kills, adding to her team-leading total of 254; no other player has more than 124. Heather Nemiec and Shelby Holmes combined for 51 digs.”Running a lot of play sets is effective, fun to watch and provides opportunities for confusion for the defending team,” Dahlman said. “In Game 3, our shifts and defense really started clicking. Hotchkiss was having trouble finding a way to put the ball down. [We] started collecting confidence.”We’re not relying on one or two players. I look around at any given moment, and I know I’ve got many possibilities to dig the ball up and put the ball down. That’s a recipe for making us a strong performing team this season.” While his team’s spot in regionals is assured, Dahlman said Basalt will not overlook the district tournament. A strong showing there could bolster the Longhorns’ chances of hosting a regional for consecutive years. Last season, Basalt swept Lamar, Middle Park and Platte Valley at home to earn a trip to Denver.”All respect is given to [last year’s team]. What they did for Basalt volleyball was the greatest accomplishment since 1978,” Dahlman said. “The fact that we’re headed in that direction again is sweet.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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