On-court cat fight
Wildcats ease past Tigers in five games
Fruita Monument moved into the top 10 of the Class 5A state rankings and has become the volleyball team to beat this year in the Southwestern League.
Grand Junction went after the Wildcats from the start Tuesday night and pushed the match to a fifth game before the Wildcats persevered for a 29-31, 25-16, 25-16, 21-25, 15-9 victory at Fruita Monument High School.
“I thought it was a good start for us,” Fruita Monument senior Jordan Eatwell said. “Junction definitely brought it. We weren’t expecting it. They brought a different game than what we saw at the (Regis) tournament (two weekends ago).”
Eatwell is one of nine seniors on the Wildcats, who shared the Southwestern League title with Durango last year.
MacKenzie Schuller led the Wildcats with 19 kills and two blocks. Eatwell had 15 kills, two blocks and 22 digs. Loryn Chiapuzio had 25 digs, and Savannah Ashmore had 53 assists.
“It’s different for us this year,” Fruita coach Bob Richardson said. “I’m trying to convince the girls we’re the team to knock off. We shared the conference last year with Durango. It’s different when you’re the team everybody’s trying to knock off.
“I wasn’t sure we were handling it or not until the end of it. We got ranked in a couple of polls this week. We’re trying not to let it go to our head.”
Grand Junction believed it could win and played like it.
“I’m really proud of the way the girls played,” Tigers coach Shawna Emmons said. “It’s disappointing to lose, but I think we’re going to surprise some teams this year. We’re tougher than we have been in several years.”
Courtney Gopinath led Grand Junction with 13 kills and four aces. Aleah Quast had 25 digs. Tia Wright had three blocks.
The Tigers’ effort and the atmosphere provided by a solid student-body attendance and participation may have been more than the Wildcats expected.
Grand Junction (3-2, 0-1 SWL) took a 7-3 lead in Game 1 behind kills from Sierra Coutts, Wright and Gopinath.
“It was nerve-racking for all of us,” Eatwell said. “We were all excited and pumped, especially since it was Junction.”
The Wildcats (5-1, 1-0 SWL) settled down to string together five consecutive points for a brief 8-7 lead and turned the first game into a fight to the finish. Fruita went on a 6-1 run late to serve for the game. The Wildcats, though, hit the serve long, continuing the game. Each team had three game points before Grand Junction’s Kayla Roberts served an ace to win the first game 31-29.
Fruita took control of the second game, jumping to a 7-1 lead mostly with the aid of Grand Junction hitting errors. The Wildcats closed the second game with a 9-3 run.
Grand Junction responded with a 5-1 start to the third game, but the Wildcats came back to win five of six points to keep the Tigers close. The teams exchanged leads two more times before Fruita’s 11-2 run to take the game.
The teams exchanged leads four times in the fourth game before Grand Junction went on a 5-2 run to take a 13-10 lead. The Wildcats kept it close before Grand Junction finished with a 5-2 run.
Both teams made a couple of early errors in the fifth game before Fruita went on a 7-1 run for a 9-4 lead. The Wildcats closed the match with a 5-0 run.
“Thankfully, they started (the fifth game) off with an error,” Richardson said. “Maybe the experience helped us out. We’ve been in big games before.”