After being on the receiving side of a sweep by an opponent earlier in the week, Moffat County High School volleyball players were eager to do some cleaning up of their own against the next foe to enter their gym.
And, while it looked like their match was one-sided, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves needing to battle back for longer than they preferred.
MCHS fell 3-2 Thursday to Leadville’s Lake County Panthers, the Dogs’ third time in five games to go to five sets and their second time losing with such a tally.
Anyone leaving earlier wouldn’t have guessed the Bulldogs would be on the wrong side of things. MoCo girls were firmly in control of the game’s pace for the first two sets, and each wound up being 25-19 in favor of the blue and white.
The third set looked to be going the same direction as Lady Dogs were looking forward to the potential 3-0 victory. However, the Panthers weren’t ready to leave the court yet, and they proved it by keeping the score more tied up than a box of poorly stored Christmas lights.
With the total tied at 17, Lake County slowly overtook their hosts and just kept going as the game began to go awry for the MoCo mojo. The Panthers didn’t look back as they ended the round with a 25-22 victory, an unsuccessful Bulldog block giving them the go-ahead on game point.
MCHS Jessica Profumo said she could tell that Lake County was starting to get their game together at that point.
“I told them, ‘They’re giving us points, and if they start to play better the score’s going to be different.’ I told them, ‘You’ve got to take control,’” she said.
The Panthers’ newfound energy let them jump ahead 6-1 in the fourth set, and just as the Bulldogs began catching up, they were down one of their starters as Olivia Profumo dove for a ball, hitting the hardwood wrong and slow to get to her feet.
Though coach Profumo had reserves at the ready, miscommunications and minor mistakes kept plaguing the Bulldog girls. At the net, light touches by Taytum Smercina and Cayden King let them start making a late comeback by taking Lake County off-guard, yet the tactic couldn’t last as Panthers won it 25-18.
A 4-0 start to the final set gave Panthers the advantage, but it also lit a fire under the gals in blue and white, particularly King, who began walloping the ball with a vengeance.
“I just wanted to get more aggressive and get the game going our way,” King said. “The last two sets, our energy was up a lot more because of the competitiveness.”
Still, the MCHS resolve could only carry them so far, and the finale turned into a 15-13 W for the Panthers.
“We’ve gotta keep pushing through,” King said. “We’ve got a lot more games, so we can’t let this one bring us down.”
King led the night in kills with 11, Abbe Adams close behind with 10, Smercina six. Smercina and Adams were tied for aces at four each, with two for Olivia Profumo.
King earned two solo block and assisted in three, with Adams getting one solo and two assists. In setting, Jacie Evenson took 28 total assists, with Alexis Jones subbing in for much of the third set with four assists.
As far as younger girls, Aftyn Kawcak was cycled in early in the game, while Lizzy LeWarne went to the net in the later rounds.
“I think we all kind of brought our own different things and brought them in the first couple sets before we kind of lost that,” LeWarne said.
LeWarne said she can feel a definite difference in the intensity of gameplay at the varsity level compared to JV.
“The hits are coming at you a lot faster, but I think they’re actually a little easier to block since they’re usually coming lower at the net,” she said, adding that the downside of a missed block on varsity is the difficulty of recovering.
While dissatisfied with the loss that likely could have been a win, coach Profumo said she remains optimistic about the message her players will take from the defeat, with 3-2 losses either becoming a habit or instilling the aggression she wants from them.
“Let’s hope it’s the latter,” she said.
At 2-3 overall, MCHS girls play 3A Western Slope League opponent Aspen this Saturday, the first of several road games as they head to Steamboat Springs April 8 and send their JV and C-Team to a Grand Junction tournament April 10. They’ll next be back at home April 12, facing Basalt.
This content was originally published here.