The Fruita Monument High School volleyball team mounted a late match comeback Tuesday night to defeat Central 25-22, 22-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-8 in a back-and-forth battle.
"This year everyone is going to play us tough," Wildcats coach Bob Richardson said. "We were pretty dominant last year. It's not the same this year."
The two rivals were evenly matched right from the start with the Warriors (3-6, 0-2 Southwestern League), holding a narrow lead through much of the first game. Fruita (8-2, 2-0 SWL) never let Central pull away and was able to take a late lead, 21-20, and held on to win the first game.
"Our strategy the whole match was to just calm down," Richardson said. "We were playing all game too keyed up and too nervous."
After losing the first game, the Warriors came back fired up and jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the second game. Strong serving by Fruita's Gabby Rigsby helped the Wildcats answer, tying the score at 7-7. The two teams traded points for the remainder of the game, with neither team allowing the other to lead by more than three points. A Fruita serve into the net followed by a kill from Central's Cloey Campbell helped the Warriors tie the match.
Game three started with Central opening up a 7-1 lead. The Warriors carried that early momentum with a long mid-game run, giving them a 21-11 advantage.
"I was pumped the whole time," Central's Chloe Nordstrom said. "This was the most our team ever wanted it."
Fruita again rallied with Rigsby serving, and cut the lead to 21-19.
Central went up 24-19, but the Wildcats would not roll over. Fruita capitalized on a couple of Warrior errors to bring the game within a point at 24-23. A nice tip over Wildcat blockers by Central's Destiny Gardner was the game winner and gave the Warriors a 2-1 lead in the match.
Looking to put the match away, Central built a four-point lead midway through the fourth game. Fruita battled back to tie the game 19-19, then powered ahead to tie the match at 2-2.
"We rely a lot on each others' energy," Fruita's Madie Price said. "After we lost that second game we were all just done letting them score on us."
The final game was tied at 8-8, but the Wildcats went on a seven-point run thanks to strong play at the net to take the match.
"I think the reason we were able to come back was that we really calmed down," Fruita's Landri Hansen said. "We just needed to take a deep breath and relax."
Central coach Brittany Adams said she was pleased with how the Warriors played. She said going forward the team needs to work on its consistency.
"We got a little shaky, a little nervous in game four," she said. "This was the first time we were in a position to beat a really good team.
"We played great. A point here or a point there and we'd have won."
Richardson highlighted the play of Campbell Atkins, who led the team with 15 kills and also had seven blocks and three aces.
Gardner led Central with 16 kills and 32 digs.
In other Southwestern League action, Montrose defeated Grand Junction 3-1. The Indians (6-5, 2-1 SWL) scored a 25-13, 25-6, 24-26, 25-11 victory over the Tigers (5-7, 1-1).