Skiers shake off slow start, top Bulldogs |

Skiers shake off slow start, top Bulldogs

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” The Hotchkiss defense had no time to react.

As Aspen setter Kylie Westerlind lofted a ball to the left, outside hitter Elissa Walter closed in. After a few stutter steps, Walter leapt into the air and, with one rapid swing of her right arm, slammed the ball right down the middle of the Bulldogs defense.

The Skiers had overcome their slow start, knotting Friday night’s volleyball match at one game each. They quieted the large contingent of Hotchkiss fans spread throughout the gym. Now, they were ready to seize control.

Aspen (6-1 overall, 3-1 3A Western Slope) cruised in the third game, then overcame some offensive and defensive lulls to outlast Hotchkiss in a hotly contested fourth game to pull out the 3-1 victory (23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 26-24).

“I don’t think we did anything special tonight, but we held the course,” first-year Skiers coach Clay Dahlman said. “I’m a little unimpressed. We kind of cruised through the game tonight. We can do better.”

The reason for Dahlman’s critical outlook? His team committed 11 service errors and 17 passing errors. And a communication gaffe cost Aspen a victory in the opening game.

With the game tied at 23, Aspen’s Katie Evans fired a sharp serve, forcing a Bulldogs defender to go low for the dig. The ball sailed high and barely over the net, catching the Skiers completely off guard as it dropped untouched to the hardwood.

Walter’s kill attempt on the ensuing play sailed wide.

“We still need to work on getting ready from the get-go,” Walter said. “We aren’t the most consistent, but we do have a lot of heart and are a team that can pull through.”

That heart was on display early in the second as Aspen reeled off six consecutive points to take a 9-5 lead. The two teams shared the lead twice more ” at 19, then at 22 ” but the Skiers squared the match when Westerlind hit a well-placed dump and Caroline Kelly and Walter converted consecutive kills.

Aspen strung together nine straight points ” four coming on unforced Bulldogs errors ” to take an 11-4 lead in Game 3. They trailed by no fewer than four points the rest of the way, and Amy Miller’s errant kill attempt sealed the Skiers’ 25-20 win.

Hotchkiss looked poised to square the match in Game 4 after jumping ahead, 8-4, but committed six consecutive errors and relinquished the lead.

The Bulldogs regained the lead after an Aspen serve and a dig attempt sailed into the net, giving Hotchkiss the 15-12 lead.

Dahlman called a timeout.

“I could sense the girls were turning it off a little bit during the middle of that game,” he said. “There always seems to be lulls. We need to work on maintaining our intensity.”

Aspen scored five of the first six points after the break to take a 17-16 lead. The teams shared the lead six times down the stretch and neither led by more than two points. The Bulldogs spoiled a Skiers game point when Sarah Koontz’s dump tied the game at 24.

Walter answered with a kill ” her team-leading 17th and most important of the night ” to give Aspen the lead. On the ensuing serve, an errant dig sent Hotchkiss players scrambling for the ball to no avail. The Skiers pulled out the two-point lead to pick up their sixth victory, double the total of last year.

“It was definitely intense out there,” Walter said. “We had to keep our concentration and keep working.”

Aspen travels to Gunnison today.

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