Longhorns spikers drop two at state
DENVER – Basalt senior Elisabeth Nemiec flashed a concerned glance as she stared into the stands.The Longhorns, leading Friday’s 3A state match with the Classical Academy at the Denver Coliseum, 2-0, squandered a 13-5 Game 3 lead and lost, 25-21. Momentum had decidedly shifted in the Titans’ favor.Basalt, making its first state appearance since 1978, proceeded to drop the following two games en route to a deflating loss – its second of the day. The Longhorns dropped their opener to St. Mary’s, 25-23, 20-25, 25-15, 25-20. Basalt is 0-6 overall in state tournament play.”We got a little tired, rattled and lost our intensity,” said senior Bailey Holmes, fighting off tears. “It wasn’t a good time to lose our intensity.”Basalt, it seemed, had shaken off the nerves of the day’s first match. The Longhorns overcame a 13-5 deficit in the first game against the Classical Academy to take the 25-22 win. They strung together a 7-2 run midway through the game, highlighted by two well-placed kills by Holmes and two aces off the right hand of sophomore Shelby Holmes. Following a partial Basalt block that dropped to the floor on the Longhorns’ side, junior Dayne Toney delivered a spark. She sprawled out to gather a loose ball and somehow managed to launch it over the net. Titans’ senior Trish Kottaridis, seeing that Toney was out of position, immediately lofted the ball back across, but her shot sailed just wide. Toney’s acrobatic play was the first of four straight points Basalt scored to tie the game at 16. Toney killed a perfect set by Nemiec through the middle of the Titans’ defense to seal the win.Basalt (25-4 overall) parlayed the momentum into an impressive Game 2 win. With the two teams tied at 16, the Longhorns closed with a 9-2 run to take a commanding lead. Shelby Holmes delivered a powerful kill through the block of two Titans, then blocked a kill attempt two plays later. Senior Sam Christensen’s kill on game point was partially blocked, but landed out of reach of a Classical Academy player.The Longhorns were well on their way to winning the school’s first state match after taking a 13-5 Game 3 lead. Their smiles, however, soon gave way to frustration.”That’s volleyball. There’s always changes in momentum,” said Basalt head coach Dave Drozd, whose team swept all three matches at last week’s regionals in Basalt. “We played well. That was a good team we took two games from.”The Classical Academy’s 11-2 rally to take control of the third game began with a strong kill from sophomore outside hitter Kerri Taylor and a Longhorns’ mishit on a return of serve. Basalt took an 18-17 lead when Titans’ junior Kerri Zynen’s attempted kill sailed long and wide. The two teams alternated points seven consecutive times until the Classical Academy closed with a 5-0 run to pull to within one game.”I wasn’t really worried because we lose leads a lot,” Bailey Holmes said.Maybe she should have been. The Titans, leading 13-11 midway through Game 4, uncorked an 8-2 run, forcing Drozd to call a timeout. The Titans, making their first-ever state appearance, took advantage of a Basalt lift, then a Christensen serve that clipped the net to stretch the lead. Sophomore Kerri Taylor followed with a kill, and senior Jocelyn Garcia caught the Basalt defense off guard with a soft shot over a pair of defenders to seal the 25-17 win and square the match. The Longhorns, many of whom rested their hands on their hips, appeared dazed.The start to Game 5 was no more promising. Following a mishit on an attempted bump, Nemiec attempted to track down the loose ball by diving into an adjacent court. She came up short. Basalt’s service miscues and problems at the net continued to pile up, and the Titans took an 8-4 advantage.”They picked up their intensity, and I don’t think we matched it,” Nemiec said. “On the court there was a roar. There are a lot of whistles and screaming. It was hard to hear and concentrate.”Basalt, which trailed the entire deciding game, pulled to within one at 11-10 when Toney blocked a kill attempt. Garcia followed with a strong kill, and the Classical Academy won two of the next three points to take a 14-12 lead.On game point, Nemiec went down low in the middle of the court to dig the ball; it deflected off her wrists and sailed over the Basalt bench. Nemiec slumped to her knees and buried her head in her hands. The harsh reality of an opportunity lost had already taken its toll.”We’re as good as these other teams. We just haven’t had this level of competition all season,” Drozd said. “It’s tough when you’re playing private schools who recruit. It’s like David versus Goliath.”Any hopes of advancing to today’s semifinals are scarce for Basalt. Only two teams from both pools of four advance. The Longhorns have one more shot at notching that elusive first state win, but it won’t be easy; they face two-time defending state champion Colorado Springs Christian today in their final pool game. The top-seeded Lions haven’t lost in the state tournament since 2003, a streak spanning 12 matches. They’ve won 30 of 31 games during that span. “We’ll definitely be playing for pride,” Nemiec said. “We want to show that we deserve to be here.””All we can do is learn from this,” Drozd said. “All I’ll tell them to do [today] is go out and have fun. They’ll remember this for the rest of their lives, win or lose. At least they can earn some respect.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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