Fruita Monument tops Palisade in valley volleyball showdown

Fruita Monument volleyball player MacKenzie Schuller, 11, gathers her team for a celebration Saturday after the Wildcats scored a big point during a victory against the Palisade Bulldogs.



Palisade blockers Courtney Wells, right,  and Savannah Hanson go up against a shot by Fruita’s Jordan Eatwell.



Picture one of those slow-motion dreams, or maybe even an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” That’s about what the first two games of Fruita Monument High School’s volleyball match Saturday at Palisade looked like to Wildcats coach Bob Richardson.

Somebody, please wake up.

“The pace of the first two games was strange,” Richardson said. “Not a lot of real hard hits on either side. Just a lot of stuff hitting the ground that usually doesn’t.”

So, after host Palisade won the first two games, Richardson switched his defensive rotation, and that, he said, seemed to snap the Wildcats out of such an eerie pace.

Fruita Monument won in five games, 16-25, 22-25, 25-18, 25-17, 15-9, and so, with other wins over Grand Junction and Central, could claim the Best of the Grand Valley honor, if there was such a thing.

“It’s a nice crosstown match,” Richardson said. “We want to win league, but we also want to beat the town. We want to be the valley champ.”

Class 5A Fruita (15-4, 10-1 Southwestern League) defeated 4A Palisade (13-7, 8-2 Western Slope League) in the nonleague match, thanks in part to Richardson’s switches.

At first, he said he was “trying to be too smart,” setting up hard-hitting MacKenzie Schuller in a specific rotation.

“I tried putting her in a rotation where we had her hitting over a very small blocker,” he said. “It didn’t work.”

Instead, Richardson moved one of the three front-row blockers back to help dig out some of the balls Palisade had been dinking over the net.

Joelle LeFevre had 25 digs and Loryn Chiapuzio added 19 for Fruita.

And in the fifth game, Schuller had three kills on the matches’ final three points.

In the final few games, she attacked the ball over blockers more often than hitting around them.

“Our defense is designed to position themselves around the block because the block does take away part of the court,” Palisade coach Wendy Mac-Askill said. “So when they hit the ball over our blockers, it’s usually a lower-percentage shot for most hitters.”

Not necessarily for Schuller.

“A lot of times I was just swinging,” Schuller said, “and then toward the end they were getting their blocks up on me, so I had to work harder to get up more and get over them.”

Morgan Thieszen led Palisade with 19 kills. Tahverle Hodges added 35 digs for the Bulldogs.

PALISADE 3, GRAND JUNCTION 0

Morgan Thieszen had 11 kills, and Tahverle Hodges had 15 digs as host Palisade won a Saturday morning nonleague match 25-19, 25-17, 25-13 over Grand Junction (4-14).

“We kind of stayed fairly consistent and steady throughout the match,” Palisade coach Wendy MacAskill said. “Good passing allowed us to run a quick offense.”

Credit Shannon Rhodes with some of the good passing — she had 23 assists, plus six aces.

DURANGO 3, CENTRAL 0

Durango defeated Central 25-17, 27-25, 25-15 in Southwestern League action.

Nichole McIvor had eight kills, Rayleigh Norton had 23 assists, and Mariah Garcia collected 19 digs for the Warriors (9-13, 3-7 SWL).


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