Tuning it out
Noise of GJ crowd doesn't bother Fruita in win over rival
They served a few arm lengths away from a group of screaming orange-and-black fans, one who wore a mask, another who shook a sign, all of whom bellowed and stomped.
But of all the Fruita Monument volleyball players who served on Tuesday by Grand Junction’s student section, one Wildcat found an escape.
“I just breathed and focused,” Fruita’s Joelle LeFevre said. “The crowd just gives you motivation to get a good serve.”
LeFevre had five aces as Fruita held off host Grand Junction in three games, 25-22, 27-25, 25-23.
“We were worried before the game about their crowd,” Fruita coach Bob Richardson said.
But on the other side of the court, away from Grand Junction’s cheering section that included football players fresh off practice, Fruita assistant coach Britney Kiefer noticed the Fruita fans were seated. And a bit quiet.
“I thought I’d do something,” Kiefer said.
So, during a first-game timeout, Kiefer walked over to the Wildcats section and told the fans to stand.
“The Junction crowd has always been loud,” Kiefer said.
Kiefer would know. She’s a 2008 Grand Junction High School graduate and former Tigers volleyball player.
“I know how their crowd can affect you,” Kiefer said.
So, she thought, our crowd needs to affect them back.
Fruita closed out the first game.
But in the second, as the student sections bantered back and forth, Grand Junction reeled off an 8-0 run with Lacee Kilgore serving. Fruita snapped the streak with a kill by Eiley Durham, who had six kills all told.
In the third game, Fruita notched its own run after trailing 19-13.
“They just stayed focused,” said Grand Junction’s Rachel Stahl, who had six kills, “and didn’t let all the cheering get to them.” The Wildcats won 12 of the next 16 points to close out the match, despite the Tigers’ faithful once again a few yards away.
“On that side of the court when we were serving, I thought their crowd got in the head of some of our servers,” Richardson said, “so we had some service errors.”
But Fruita already had been toughened. The Wildcats (2-3, 1-0 Southwestern League) took on some of the state’s best at the Regis Jesuit Tournament. Richardson said the Wildcats were 1-3 in the tournament but better for having participated.
Grand Junction (4-4, 0-1) had just played in the Palmer Tournament in Colorado Springs, placing second.
“They played so hard down there,” Grand Junction coach Leslie Vines said, “and I expected them to keep it rolling. But they’ve got to believe in themselves. That’s the bottom line.”