Paonia volleyball a true family affair

Paonia High School’s volleyball players celebrate a point. — Photo by Tamie Meck, Delta County Independent.

Her name was supposed to be C’erra, but with a misplaced apostrophe, it became Ce’rra.

“That would be her dad filling out the birth certificate,” Paonia volleyball coach Krista Carsten said.

Krista Carsten is the mother of Ce’rra, a senior on the Paonia volleyball team.

“The name was just to do something different,” Krista said. “Sierra had become common, but we wanted to do something different.”

The birth certificate inscription was only the beginning of a larger family, one that is doing something very different.

The Paonia volleyball team (22-4, 11-0 2A/1A Western Slope League) is headed to the Denver Coliseum for the Class 2A state volleyball championships today and Saturday. It’s the first time since 1990 the Eagles have gone to state, Krista Carsten said.

“We’ve been known for our basketball,” she said. “That’s what they’ve put the time into.”

But then came along Krista Carsten, who played volleyball at Mesa State in the 1980s, and her daughters, Taylor, now a freshman, and, of course, Ce’rra.

A volleyball team would be hard-pressed to be more family-like. Six of the eight Paonia volleyball players generally see action. There’s Taylor, who has earned time with 95 aces this season. Ce’rra has a team-high 295 kills.

Twin sisters Easton and Morgan Hartigan form what Krista Carsten calls the “Hartigan wall.” Side by side on the front row, at about 5-foot-6 apiece, they’ve combined for 64 blocks.

“They put up a mean block together,” Krista Carsten said.

Filling another role is Carson Pipher, a 5-5 junior who had four kills in the fifth game of Paonia’s 3-2 win over host Vail Mountain in the Region C tournament.

Then there’s Abby Campbell, the tallest on the team at 5-7. She’s the “cheerleader,” Krista Carsten said, adding Campbell is consistent with her sets and steady all the way.

“None of us are very tall,” Campbell said. “But we’re all pretty quick, and we scramble a lot. I don’t think there’s a lot of balls hit that we don’t go 110 percent for.”

The Eagles average 17.7 digs per game, led by Ce’rra Carsten’s 3.7.

But it’s the tenacity and close ties that have led Paonia to a place it hasn’t been since 1990, according to Krista Carsten. And with a win today over Sangre De Cristo (22-3) or Swink (22-2), the Eagles will have won their first state tournament match since 1983, Krista Carsten said.

In a sense, it all started with the birth of the Carsten sisters and the signing of the birth certificate, the error that created “Ce’rra.” The sisters grew up around volleyball because of their mother, who said the family’s volleyball passion might have helped attract more in the community to the sport.

Sometimes family ties snap.

“Honestly, there are at least five minutes in games we have to remember that I am her player, not her daughter,” Ce’rra said. “She is my coach and not my mom.”

The Hartigan twins’ relationship is a bit different. They push each other as well. Sometimes both are close enough to pass an incoming ball.

“It’s a sister thing,” said Morgan, who is 15 minutes younger than Easton.

“It just fires me up,” Easton said of the fights. “I start to make better passes. I encourage the team more. It’s makes me hit harder, makes me jump higher.”

And Pipher is one of the leaders, the one who reeled off those four kills — points 12 through 15 — to close out the region’s No. 1 seed in Game 5 of the match.

“They were great sets, and I just had to get it done,” Pipher said.

“I’ve just got to give God the glory, and it was awesome. Our team was just fired up.”

Now imagine how pumped they’ll be if they win their first state match in almost 30 years.


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