Wright Tiger

Senior's late kills help GJ overcome miscues vs. Central

Grand Junction’s Tia Wright, 5, collects one of her 23 kills Tuesday night in the Tigers’ 25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20 victory over Ashley Merkel, 1, and Central. Wright’s hitting in the final two games was the difference for the Tigers.

The Grand Junction High School volleyball team struggled with back row issues most of Tuesday night.

Facing Central, the Tigers had service errors and miscommunications on defense that gave free points to the Warriors. But when its front row started clicking, none of those mistakes mattered.

Tia Wright finished with 23 of Grand Junction’s 39 kills in a 25-20, 23-25, 25-18, 25-20 Southwestern League victory.

Wright really found her rhythm in the third and fourth games. Almost 65 percent of the Tigers’ total kills came in the final two games, paced by Wright making shots from all over the court.

The senior ripped a cross-court kill that scattered defenders in the third game and fired off a kill from 10 feet behind the net in the fourth. She clicked with her teammates and attacked — sophomore Breck Smith finished with 32 assists — as the Tigers settled down late.

“We’re struggling to play as a team,” Grand Junction coach Jeff Wells said. “We have half the team playing, half the team not. We have some players trying to turn it on and others ... We just gotta find the groove we had early in the season.”

Central (3-7, 0-2 SWL) took advantage of early errors by Grand Junction (6-4, 1-1) largely by committing few errors. Clean play from the Warriors kept the first two games close despite Central’s shorter front row. Outside hitters Megan Garner and Cloey Campbell were efficient, as was middle hitter Tricia Ramsey, at prodding the Tigers’ defense when holes opened up.

Central coach Brittany Adams said the Warriors were more concerned with play on their side of the net, rather than dwelling on Grand Junction’s tall front row.
“We’re successful when we play good defense and make teams transition over and over again,” Adams said. “One of our big strengths is that we’re a low-error team most of the time, so we just try to take care of our side of the net.”

That mentality kept the Warriors in each of the games.

Service errors and net violations were a regular occurrence in the first game, with Central eventually opening a late three-point lead. The Tigers battled back after a timeout, tallying four consecutive points to close out the game.

The same thing happened in the second game, with Central eventually putting the game away. An ace by Grand Junction’s Taegan Stewart ­­­— one of three she had — tied it at 21-21. The teams traded two points each, then the Warriors closed out the game with a tip from Ramsey and a cross-court kill from Garner.

The highlight of the third game was a long rally with multiple diving digs, eventually ended by a Grand Junction attack error that tied it 10-10. The Tigers eventually pulled away to win the third game.

Wright once again anchored Grand Junction in the fourth game to secure the victory.

“Defense and big hits make a big difference,” Wells said. “Tia definitely brought that tonight. Tia and Lexi (Wright) were our dig leaders as well tonight, so that made a big difference.”


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