Despite only one returning starter, Mancos going back to state tourney

Mancos hitter Aimee Johnson trys to get a shot over Danette Billington, center and Melissa Kraker at PHS

For a rebuilding year, Mancos has to be pretty happy with the final result.

The Bluejays were the second qualifier at the 2A Region C tournament Saturday at Palisade High School.

Mancos finished fifth in state last season but returned only one starter from that team. Saturday, the Bluejays showed the maturation of this current team defeating Meeker 25-22, 14-25, 25-22, 16-24, 15-12 in the match to decide the final qualifier for the state tournament this weekend at the Denver Coliseum.

“This is better than we could have ever hoped,” Mancos coach Ramona Shepherd said. “I hate that word ‘rebuilding’ but going into this year, I kept thinking if we can win league, go to districts then maybe even go to regionals and not embarrass ourselves, that would be a good year. But as the year went on, the girls continued to develop and get better.”

The two girls who specifically came into their own Saturday were outside hitters Daria Morelli and Aimee Johnson. The two combined for 36 kills in the final match, including Johnson’s only kill in the final game to seal the match.

Johnson is a freshman who developed into the Bluejays’ No. 2 hitter and has played the entire season with the burden of her mother’s death right before the season on her mind and in her heart.

“I can’t imagine what is going through her head, but she maintained all year. When her team needed her, she went in there and performed,” Shepherd said.

Morelli is the team’s sole returning starter from last season and moved from the back row as a junior into the team’s No. 1 hitter as a senior. Morelli put behind an average performance in the Bluejays’ 3-2 win over West Grand earlier in the day to carry Mancos against Meeker.

The senior lefty had 21 kills, including five in the final game.

“She has her moments where she tries too hard and after the West Grand game, I got on her,” Shepherd said. “I told her ‘you are a senior, play like a senior,’ and she did.”

Morelli, like the rest of her team, was brought to tears after pulling out the win against Meeker.

“Everyone worked hard and I am proud of these girls,” Morelli said. “When it came down to the wire, we played like the team we knew we were and now we are returning to state.”

What made the final match of the day so important was the fact Rangely rolled early in the day. The Panthers won the regional tournament by defeating Mancos and Meeker 3-1 in back-to-back matches.

And while the Panthers lost in their final match to West Grand 3-0, it didn’t take away from Rangely clinching its second straight trip to the state tournament.

“We did a nice job this morning, played really well,” Rangely coach Jimmie Mergelman said. “Probably lost the momentum and didn’t come out the way we should have, but we look to do a great job next week.”

In other regional tournaments, Dove Creek and North Park both qualified for the Class 1A tournament out of Region A.

Montrose returns to the state tournament by qualifying out of the Class 4A Region C tournament. The Indians defeated Greeley West and D’Evelyn 3-0 on the way to qualifying.

Eagle Valley and Coal Ridge didn’t qualify out of their respective tournaments.

In the 3A state soccer tournament, Hotchkiss advanced to the championship game by defeating Fountain Valley 3-1.


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