TELLURIDE – The Telluride High School volleyball squad is state-bound at last.
The Lady Miners, whose record stands at an intimidating 22-3 for the 2011 season, now join the uppermost echelon of 2A teams as they travel to Denver today for the state championship tournament. This follows the girls’ gutsy performance last weekend at regionals, in which the team ran the gamut – from a stellar performance against Meeker to a shaky game against Mancos – ultimately taking two wins to ensure a berth at state.
Telluride was the No. 2 seed coming out of districts behind Mancos, putting the Miners at the No. 4 seed for the regional tournament. But the girls didn’t play the part of the underdog in their first match, putting together a short and snappy game plan in which they dominated Meeker, winning in three sets 25-21, 25-15, and 25-19.
Coach Fawnda Rogers said the girls’ proficiency in game one was a result of solid playing all around, specifically from senior Emily Langley, whose serves and blocking were consistently strong, while libero Sara Wontrobski was relentless on defense. In that game, the team didn’t miss a single serve and barely made an error.
“There’s no doubt that if our whole team plays well we’re pretty much unstoppable,” Rogers said.
Yet the wheels fell off unexpectedly in the next match, when the girls met their district rivals, the Mancos Bluejays. Telluride had beaten Mancos twice this season, but, Rogers said, “a different [Telluride] team showed up” to the regionals match. A rash of missed serves and mental errors doomed the Miners 19-25, 20-25, and 21-25.
“The reality is we just crumbled mentally,” said Rogers.
The team had some time to breathe and refocus before their next match, this time against Rangely. Telluride lost the first set 18-25, and Rogers said she feared her team wouldn’t be able to shake their Mancos Bluejay blues. Yet the girls rallied, coming back to win in four sets.
The two wins gave the Miners their first state tourney bid in close to a decade.
Rogers admitted her team is going to face a much different beast when they play at the Denver Coliseum tomorrow, where all of the best volleyball teams in the state will be vying for the title of state champ in all five divisions.
“We have all the tools; there’s nothing else to learn. At this point we’re just refining our game and getting excited,” she said this week.
Rogers, who is no stranger to high-level competition (She was a collegiate player herself, who went on to take Telluride HS to its first state tournament in the 1980s, and later coached state-qualifying teams at 5A schools in California), said she has a few tricks up her sleeve as the team readied itself for its trip to state this week.
“We’ve been making as much noise on the sidelines as we can” in practices this week, Rogers said: blowing whistles, yelling, bouncing basketballs – all in an attempt to get the girls mentally prepared for the sensory onslaught of playing in a huge coliseum this Friday and Saturday.
According to senior player Emy Ludwig, the team is excited for their chance to step up into the big leagues this weekend, where they’ll face teams like No. 3-ranked Byers and No. 2-ranked Akron.
"We've worked really hard the last four years," Ludwig said. "This year our confidence level has been so much higher than ever before. When we play our game, it's so much fun to be on the court."