Prep Notes: Strong return

After losing year to knee injury, Stahl back on court for Tigers volleyball team

Grand Junction’s Rachel Stahl sets the ball during a recent match with Central. The senior outside hitter missed all but five minutes of her junior year with a knee injury but is making the most of her senior year. Stahl has 29 kills for the Tigers, who play at Montezuma-Cortez tonight.

Her junior volleyball season lasted five minutes.

During a scrimmage against Central High School last season, Grand Junction’s Rachel Stahl jumped and landed with all her weight on her left leg. She suffered a complete tear of her anterior cruciate ligament and a root tear of her lateral meniscus.

After surgery to repair the ligaments, a month on crutches and one year of physical therapy, the senior outside hitter is back and has played in each of Grand Junction’s nine games.

“The hardest part was just staying strong through all that,” Stahl said, “and just knowing that it happened for a reason.”

Stahl said there’s no pain in her knee, just occasional swelling, but she can’t completely extend her left leg.

“You can tell she’s not fully recovered from it,” Tigers senior Carmen Pipe said, “but she has grown from it.”

The Tigers (4-5, 0-2 Southwestern League) play at Montezuma-Cortez at 7 p.m. today.

Pipe leads the Tigers with 34 kills, Whitney Jackson has 30, and Stahl has 29. No doubt, Stahl appreciates each one.

“I just have to accept the fact that the knee is not the same,” she said. “But I’ve shown myself how strong I can be and that I can push through anything.”

That Sure sounds familiar

When Palisade High School’s Kyler Smith and Skyler Miller shot rounds of 70 and 74, respectively, at the Class 4A Western Regional boys golf tournament to qualify for state, Bulldogs coach Jan Norell sounded a little like Napoleon Bonaparte.

Napoleon once said, “Ability is nothing without opportunity.”

Norell said of her players’ regional performances, “It was one of those times when the preparation met the opportunity, and they had success.”

Not kidding about depth

The Montrose High School golf team all season showed the depth of its program, oftentimes getting a high finish from its junior varsity team at tournaments.

It’s a blessing and a curse for Indians coach Angelo DeJulio, who loves that his program is as deep and strong as it is. He wants that. But it was tough to reduce his team from the five players he took to tournaments all season long to the four-player limit in the postseason.

That makes the 72 Riley Willis shot at the 4A Western Regional, tying him for second, all the more remarkable. Willis, DeJulio said, had to win a playoff against a teammate just to earn the regional trip as the Indians’ No. 4 player.

“He played terrific, hit the ball unbelievably well,” DeJulio said of Willis. “I think he hit 15 or 16 greens in regulation.”

Better for the experience

Before expressing her excitement after Tuesday’s victory over Grand Junction, Central volleyball coach Beth Nelson spoke with pride about her team’s performance in four matches on the Front Range the previous weekend.

The Warriors went 0-4, but the experience was invaluable, Nelson said, and her team showed grit, twice following first-game losses with second-game victories before succumbing. The Warriors also took one match to a fifth game after dropping the first two games.

“It was a tough weekend but a good weekend,” Nelson said. “We played some tough teams with some big hitters. We’re a young team. We just need to get over there and play those tough teams.”

Defense served by youth

The Fruita Monument boys soccer coach Dan McKee spoke highly of his defense, which is mostly underclassmen, after the Wildcats’ 2-1 victory Monday against Central. The Wildcats limited Central to two shots on goal, and conceded a goal on a controversial penalty call.

“Everybody in the league has tough defenses, but I think we have one of the toughest,” McKee said. “Lukas (Smith) and Cory (Odom) are huge for us back there. They’re young, only juniors, but I think those two and Noah (Nelson) at center mid have really stepped up into the starting roles. They’re tough back there, and I think they’re some of the best in the conference.”

Inspired by new coach

Grand Junction High’s cross-country team, led on the boys side by Greg Eccher (top time of 16:48) and on the girls by sophomore Samantha Melchor (21:45) is running in the Arvada West Invitational at 3:30 today.

The Tigers’ boys team has won three meets (Delta, Central, Grand Junction), and the girls have placed second twice (Delta and Grand Junction).

Tigers first-year coach Kim Dobson has helped inspire the Tigers, say some of her runners.

“She makes you want to work hard,” Melchor said.

“She gives us inspiration,” said Charlie Medina, whose personal best this season is a 16:53 at Canyon View Park. “She makes us read articles about really fast girls.”

Reporter Matt Meyer contributed to this story.


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