MONTROSE – The Montrose Indians volleyball team converted a late-season surge into success at the district tournament last month, earning a spot at regionals. But that’s where the run ended, after consecutive losses to Coronado and Green Mountain Nov. 4-5, in Colorado Springs.
In most sports, teams with a 12-14 record don’t consider it a winning season. But for the Montrose High School girl’s volleyball team, their win/loss record was secondary compared to their post-season play.
The girls’ performance at the district tournament qualified them for regionals, and that, so far, is the highlight of their season.
The Indians beat Eagle Valley and Steamboat to finish first in their pool at the district tournament in Durango. Then they defeated Pueblo East in the crossover match to play for the championship. They lost to Durango in the finals match but earned second place, which gave them a spot at regionals.
The Indians were the underdogs going into districts, and according to head coach Shane Forrest, this worked to their advantage. The team had to fight for their wins, making big comebacks in each of their early matches. The Indians lost the first set in their match against Eagle Valley 17-25, but came back and won the second 25-18. Eagle Valley won the third set, however, proving it was still anyone’s game. Finally the Indians were able to put the Devils in their place, winning the fourth and fifth sets 25-21 and 15-11 respectively, to take the match.
“We went in with no pressure, and they were not watching for us, so we were able to jump on that and surprise some people,” Forrest said.
The Indians again suffered a loss in the first set in their match against Steamboat Springs, 18-25. Things got serious when they lost the next set 11-25, but the team pulled through to win the last three sets 25-13, 25-19, and 15-11, giving them confidence in their comebacks.
“All season, when we got down, typically we came back. I credit the girls in their fight and perseverance,” Forrest said.
After winning their first round pool, the team once again had a comeback in the match against Pueblo East. After losing the first set 18-25, they won the next three 25-16, 25-23, and 25-15, to move on to the championship game.
The championship round pitted Montrose against the Durango Demons. Montrose came out strong and won the first set this time, 25-20, but the Demons triumphed in the end; winning the next three sets 19-25, 17-25, and 20-25. The Indians, unable to make one more comeback, still earned a trip to the regional tournament.
Hunter Schaffer was recognized by coach Forrest as having a big impact as a blocker for the team in the district matches. He also mentioned Hailey Wells and Missy Harceg for setting the team up defensively. Brooke Gaber was also highlighted by her coach for being consistent in her play and her ability to keep the team grounded throughout the tournament.
The district tournament was really the peak of the season for the girls, after a rough start. According to Forrest, the team had some good wins but they lost more games than they expected to in league play. After a loss to Grand Junction, the team hit a turning point in the season and, according to Forrest, they began their upward climb to the post season.
“We had heart-to-heart talks to individuals and the team about the direction of the season. We ended on a high note, once we hit that turning point, “he said.
After making some changes in the lineup, the team saw success leading into the district tournament. Forrest brought sophomores Lindsey Rummings and Shea Neill up to varsity to add to the experience of the six seniors on the team. Big wins against Fruita, Grand Junction, Central, and Cortez got them into the district tournament. “The team played with more passion and joy, so the second half of the season was very successful,” he said.
The regional tournament featured the top 16 teams in the state with the top two teams advancing to the state tournament. Competition was stiff in this “sweet sixteen” tournament.
“The teams we were playing were bigger, faster, and stronger so it was a long shot to get out of the tournament, but I wanted them to play their best,” Forrest said.
The Indians lost their first two matches, both to Coronado, 12-25, 18-25, and 24-26, and 13-25, 19-25, and 23-25. This left them in the consolation bracket with Green Mountain, but the team could not pull off a win in the tournament, losing the final match 14-13.
“They fought hard and did not give up and roll over. We challenged the teams. It was definitely a big deal because the sweet sixteen is a tough place just to get to,” Forrest said.
Although the season ended with those tough contests, the post-season play was the high point for this year’s Montrose girls volleyball program. Forrest believes the younger players contributed to the success of the team and will be a factor for next year.