Second effort

Adjustments in second set lift 'Cats past Tigers

Fruita Monument’s Maddy Mueller hits around the block of Grand Junction’s Madi Schmalz on Tuesday night during the Wildcats’ 22-25, 25-20, 25-12, 25-17 victory over the Tigers. The win moved Fruita into first place in the Southwestern League standings.

A first-set energy surge by Grand Junction volleyball team gave the Tigers an early lead Tuesday night. A second-set adjustment for Fruita Monument gave the Wildcats a lead they’d never relinquish.

Riley Snyder had a match-high 18 kills with 13 digs to go with a 14-kill performance from Dana Thomson, and Fruita recovered after a strong first-set performance from the Tigers to prevail 22-25, 25-20, 25-12,
25-17 in a key Southwestern League match at Grand Junction High School.

“They play well in their own building, and it’s a big rivalry too. So they came ready to play,” Fruita coach Bob Richardson said. “We knew in the first set we were making too many errors and we had to settle down, but I got a little concerned after we fell behind in the second set.

“Then, they got mad. They picked it up a notch.”

Many of the points Fruita (13-5, 7-1 SWL) scored after trailing 18-13 in the second set came on hitting errors from Grand Junction (10-8, 2-5), which has beaten the Wildcats only once since the 2012 season. It looked like the Tigers were about to change that trend early on, with senior outside hitter Tia Wright tallying eight of her 18 kills in the first set.

That’s when the Wildcats adjusted their blocking, which worked during a 10-0 Fruita run that shifted the match’s momentum away from the Tigers.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” said Madison Younker, one of seven seniors honored during the Tigers’ senior-night festivities. “We wanted to play well and we brought the energy during the first game.

“But it was our mistakes that helped them win. Once we lost that first point, it seemed to tumble downhill. It wasn’t that they were playing better than us. It was more that we stopped playing our game.”

Despite the loss, the Tigers are still in good shape to make the 36-team regional field. Grand Junction was ranked No. 21 in the Colorado High School Activities Association’s RPI standings headed into the match and won’t drop with the loss. That’s because the Wildcats are ranked No. 8, which would make them one of 12 regional hosts if that ranking holds up.

Wright, along with her younger sister, junior Lexi Wright, led the Tigers’ early charge. After a kill from Snyder pulled the first set even at 21-21, Lexi Wright answered with two consecutive kills before Grand Junction scored four of the final five points to take a 1-0 match lead.

The Tigers kept that momentum at the start of the second, leading 18-13 after back-to-back kills from Lexi and Tia Wright. Fruita, however, responded a timeout with 10 consecutive points.

“We had a bunch of errors early on, including myself,” Snyder said. “Once we were able to eliminate those, we were able to win handily. And coming in, we knew we wouldn’t be able to have many mistakes against them.”

Instead, they took advantage of the Tigers’ mistakes, scoring 10 points during a third set-opening 15-4 run off of Grand Junction’s serving and hitting errors.

“We weren’t believing in ourselves before that,” said Fruita junior middle blocker Sitori Carver, who had a team-high three blocks. “We weren’t believing in our blocking, our hitting, our anything. We turned that around in the second set.”

Breck Smith had 27 assists and Judi Woomer added two aces for Grand Junction. Fruita’s Truth Hafey had a match-high 38 assists with three aces and MacKenzie Wells had 21 digs.

Palisade 3, Battle Mountain 0: Reannon Baskin and Christa Brown each had eight kills as Palisade swept Battle Mountain 26-24, 25-19, 26-24 in Edwards to clinch at least second place in the Class 4A Western Slope League.

Gracey Higman added 27 assists and four aces and Abby Thiessen chipped in 18 digs for the Bulldogs (11-6, 8-2 WSL), who were ranked No. 14 in the 4A RPI standings coming into the match. Battle Mountain (12-5, 6-4) was ranked No. 11.


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