Central volleyball team rallies to beat GJ for first time since 2013

Sabree Herrera didn’t look nervous.

There was no doubt that the Central junior setter had butterflies as she stepped to the service line Thursday night. Leading 15-14, Central was one point away from getting its first Southwestern League win since 2015.

Herrera ripped a wickedly hard serve that glanced off a Grand Junction player and it was time to celebrate.

“It was kind of intimidating. I was kinda shaky,” Herrera said, smiling. “You always have to be confident with your serve or it’s not going to be good. This is so exciting.”

The serve capped a determined comeback for the Warriors to get a 14-25, 25-20, 16-25, 25-18, 16-14 win over the Tigers.

Central coach Brittany Adams said the final serve was exactly what she expected.

“Sabree is notorious for doing that. She’s the gutsiest server I’ve ever seen,” the coach said. “She goes back there and goes for the ace. She swings for the fences every time.”

Grand Junction regrouped every time Central tied the match. The Tigers cruised to relatively easy wins in the first and third sets only to see the Warriors battle back and tie the match.

The Tigers (4-3, 1-1 SWL) looked to have settled into a good rhythm in the final set after Lindy Spiegel had a dink winner for a 7-3 lead.

But the Warriors (2-8, 1-1 SWL) kept battling. Ashley Merkel had two kills and an ace to lead the Warriors back for a 10-9 lead.

Three Grand Junction errors pushed the Central lead to 12-9.

Lexi Wright hit a soft winner over the block to cut the lead to 12-11, and later, a shot into the net by Central put Grand Junction on the brink of victory at 14-13.

A couple of bad serves and then Herrera’s ace gave Central the win.

All game long, the Warriors played great defense, digging balls and keeping points alive.

“We know when we play good defense like that, we’re going to make teams uncomfortable,” Adams said. “Teams are going to have to hit the ball six or seven times and that just makes teams uncomfortable, and they start making errors.”

For Merkel and four other seniors on the team, it was their first-ever win over Grand Junction. The Warriors last beat Grand Junction in 2013.

“It felt amazing, I wanted it so bad,” Merkel said. “I’ve been preparing for this for so long. I just said this is not the time to just step back and watch, I wanted it and we got it.”

In the fourth set, Central got out to a big lead thanks to a pair of aces from Herrera and a perfect dink from Jalyn Alton.

The lead went to 22-12 off a good serve by Kaya Corrella and a kill by Delaney Brown ended the set.

This was the third straight five-set match for the Tigers, who beat Palisade and Montrose in the other two.


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