The roster looks a little different this season, but the Fruita Monument High School volleyball team will still be competitive.
The Wildcats showed that Tuesday night.
Behind a 10-kill performance from Campbell Atkins and some stellar defensive play, the Wildcats (2-0) defeated Palisade 25-22, 25-19, 25-20.
"I don't think it really matters that we have a lot of new faces because we've had a lot of us who have been training in this system ever since freshman year," said Atkins, a senior outside hitter who saw significant playing time on a Fruita team that qualified for the Class 5A state tournament last season. "We have really high expectations, and I think that's pretty well known. That's especially true after coming off such a great season last year.
"We don't want to come out and say, 'Well, we lost eight seniors, so we have an excuse.' We're still coming out here ready to win."
Fruita, which swept its season opener at Glenwood Springs this past Friday, showed that drive in a couple of ways. The Wildcats dominated large stretches of the second set, leading by as much as 16-9 before holding off a comeback attempt from the Bulldogs (0-1). The Wildcats rallied from an 11-6 deficit to win the third set.
"The thing I've noticed that's carried over is they still play with a lot of confidence when we're in tight games, especially in the times we were down," ninth-year Fruita coach Bob Richardson said. "We do have some experience back from last year in Morgan (Laing) and Campbell, and some of the other seniors have a little bit of experience, too. But just being part of that team helped them carry over some confidence."
Such a thing could also be said about Palisade, which last season qualified for a Class 4A regional tournament for the third consecutive season. Though Palisade lost four seniors to graduation, the Bulldogs have a pair of 6-foot sibling hitters in sophomore Kendyl MacAskill and senior Alexandra MacAskill playing at the net. Much of the team is young — four sophomores and a freshman are on the varsity roster — but showed signs they'll be able to work together well while developing team chemistry.
"We're really still getting to know each other," 12th-year Palisade coach Wendy MacAskill said. "They didn't lay down and kept fighting, but the thing I really liked the most was seeing our girls truly celebrate for their teammate's successes. To see that kind of thing so early in the year is really encouraging."
Alexandra MacAskill finished with a match-high 13 kills and four aces, and she scored three consecutive Palisade points with a kill and two aces to put the Bulldogs up 7-6 in the second set. Fruita responded, though, as a kill from Rachel Coffey sparked a 10-3 run to put the Wildcats in command headed into the third.
A pair of stuff blocks from Kendyl MacAskill and three kills from Caylee Chutka in the third set helped put Palisade up 11-6 in the third set. Fruita chipped away, though, as Coffey's three kills and three aces were part of an 11-4 run the Wildcats used to close out the match.
"Since we had so many big seniors last year, one of the things we're focusing on is keeping our energy up," Campbell said. "We're not as big as we were last year, and that's important in volleyball. But with what we have this year, if we come out with more energy and more focus, we'll still have a lot of success."
Samantha Alberts and Jessie Mello each had seven digs for Palisade. Laing had 21 digs and Madie Price added 11 to lead Fruita.