Skiers push Cowboys to five games, can’t prevail |

Skiers push Cowboys to five games, can’t prevail

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
ASpen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” The Skiers proved they can compete with league’s best. They still couldn’t hand league-leader Gunnison a loss Saturday, however.

Aspen opened the match with a 13-6 run and cruised to a 25-12 opening-game victory. The Cowboys responded with two straight wins, before the Skiers bounced back to square the match and force a fifth game. They came out slow in the deciding frame and could not recover, falling 25-12, 14-25, 11-25, 25-16, 15-7.

“We had a great effort, but unfortunately the attack wasn’t as strong today,” Aspen head coach Clay Dahlman said. “We weren’t as explosive as we can be. … We showed we can play with anybody, but we have to maintain our intensity.”

Dahlman and his players eagerly anticipated Saturday’s rematch with Gunnison after being swept in the first meeting. The Skiers (8-4 overall, 5-4 3A Western Slope) came out attacking.

“We played consistently and put a lot of pressure on them, which caused them to make a fair amount of errors,” senior Elissa Walter said. “In Game 2, we let down a little bit.”

Dahlman implored his player to keep attacking, which was a winning formula in the first game. They did just the opposite and were outscored 50-25 in the second and third games.

“I really felt like we were in control, but we probably woke up the beast,” Dahlman said. “I tried to tell them not to let up. … We were a little more tentative and not as quick or aggressive on the passes. Gunnison kept digging the ball up. They’ve always been very scrappy.”

In a match in which momentum fluctuated from game to game, The Skiers shook up the lineup in the fourth game and took control. Dahlman moved senior Arielle Shipe to libero and went to his bench in an attempt to breathe some life into a sluggish offense and defense. Shipe picked up two aces, Madison Murdoch and Shannon Peirce combined for seven kills and Aspen neutralized the Cowboys’ strength in the middle by attacking deep in the corners. The squared the match with a nine-point victory.

“The bench really stepped up and showed they could be calm under pressure,” Dahlman said. “We did exactly what we needed to do to be successful. It just wasn’t quite enough.”

Gunnison’s quick start to open the deciding game all but silenced the Skiers. Aspen briefly pulled to within five points after a Walter kill, but the Cowboys answered with consecutive kills to take a 12-5 lead. They sealed the win when a Skiers shot sailed wide.

“This is a disappointment, because we could’ve won this match,” said Walter, who finished with a team-high 16 kills. “But I also see this as an inspiration for us to come back harder and keep working.”

As his team prepares for a bout with Coal Ridge on Tuesday night in New Castle, Dahlman said Saturday was encouraging.

“We proved we could compete,” he said. “To lose and put up a good fight like that is something to be proud of.”

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