Rangely, Mancos advance to state volleyball tourney
Last year the Rangely High School volleyball team spent the state tournament somewhere it wasn’t used to being that time of year — at home.
The Panthers, who have a nucleus of nine seniors this season, had been to the state tournament in the seniors’ freshman and sophomore years and were motivated to make it back.
“It was just really heartbreaking because we’d been to state twice already and it’s like ‘how can you not go?’ ” senior Marie Morton said.
Saturday at Palisade High School, they earned their trip by beating Telluride, Paonia and Mancos to win the Class 2A Region C championship.
“This was our ultimate goal, getting to state this year,” Morton said. “We didn’t make it last year and we really wanted it.”
The Panthers, who will be joined at the state tournament by runner-up Mancos, made quick work of their three opponents and didn’t lose a game in any of Saturday’s three matches. Even when Mancos got a lead, Rangely fought back with big rallies.
In the regional championship match against Mancos, Rangely trailed 19-14 in the first game, but went on an 11-1 run to win the game 25-20, and then won the next two 25-7, 25-23.
Much of the team’s strength lies in the depth of the hitters up front, including Morton and Victoria Phelan, whose blocks and kills kept Mancos at bay.
“Victoria’s really a pound-it kind of girl,” Morton said. “She just takes it out and I try placing it more, but we have a really solid front row.”
Rangely beat Paonia 25-20, 25-10, 25-15 and Telluride 25-20, 25-22, 26-24.
Mancos will be making the trip for the fifth time in six years despite returning only two starters from last season.
To get to state, the Bluejays had to squeeze past league rival Telluride 3-2 in a match that allowed little room for error.
Mancos won 19-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-20, 16-14, with the deciding point scored on an ace by Aimee Johnson that was just in bounds.
“My serves are not hard, I know that,” Johnson said afterward. “I just remember standing at the end line, I was just praying to the ball. I was praying to my mom like, ‘Mom, please, make this an ace or something and get us a point.’
“I thought it was going to go out and then it was right on the line. I thought they would have gone for it.”
The ace ended the match, which left both coaches in a tearful embrace and was point-for-point at the very end. Even when Mancos scored its 14th point to get to match point at 14-11, Telluride scored three points to tie it up before a lift was called on Emy Ludwig to set up Johnson’s ace.
Mancos beat Paonia 25-18, 27-25, 20-25, 25-18.
Paonia lost all three of its matches and was the only winless team in the tournament.
Despite the lack of success at the regional level, it was still the best finish the team has had in 20 years.
“It’s disappointing to come here and go 0-3,” Paonia coach Krista Carsten said. “But in the scheme of things, we knew this was a rebuilding year for us and I think to end up being here is a huge accomplishment.”
The Eagles faced a size differential with each team they played and lost 25-21, 25-19, 25-13 in their final match with Telluride, but return all but three players next season.