GYPSUM — Three-hundred-sixty-four-days ago, the train jumped the track for Battle Mountain volleyball.
Eagle Valley came into Edwards and took the Huskies in five games, and Battle Mountain was on its way to a five-match losing streak. The Huskies did right the ship, but 11-11 doesn’t make regionals.
Nearly a year later, the Huskies were determined not to make the same mistake. In a battle of 4A Slope undefeateds, Battle Mountain came away with a 25-16, 25-20, 25-17 victory at Eagle Valley Saturday afternoon and is now riding a five-match winning streak.
“It was really intense at the beginning, but we really showed our best,” the Huskies’ Mackenzie Ellison said. “We were really strong and aggressive, because we wanted it. This is the year to make it to state because we are playing so well.”
While Madama Ellison’s optimism is understandable, it’s still early on the state front. But there’s no denying Saturday was a big test for the 5-1 Huskies and they passed with flying colors.
They won because they played good defense, which would be in keeping with the gospel according to Battle Mountain coach Jason Fitzgerald.
“It’s been our emphasis for three years,” the coach said. “You’ve heard me say, ‘If you can’t pass, you can’t play.’ We focus on all aspects on the game, but we spend a lot of time on defense.”
And it started in the first game of the match. Eagle Valley jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, but the Huskies rumbled back behind blocks by Madeline Perkins and Emily Clinton. LaRose Currie was her usual-menacing self when her turn came up front, but a telling point in the first set during the Huskies’ rally was beautiful combination block by Tesha Olson and Currie. That was part of a seven-point run with Emily Clinton serving them up.
Battle Mountain raced out to 11-3 lead in the second game with Olson and Currie again shutting down the Devils’ attack on the 11th point. Eagle Valley also had five serving errors down the stretch of the middle stanza, which did not help its cause.
“All credit to Battle Mountain,” Devils coach Garrett La Force said. “They played a very clean game and we made way too many errors to come out with success. That’s the difference.”
Huskies libero Alexis Medina deserves some credit for her ability to dig and get things started going in the other direction. Perkins and Clinton put up blocks in the third. A Currie attack gave Battle Mountain the lead for good at 16-15, and Perkins and Olson put an exclamation point on things with another stuff during the Huskies’ final rally.
“We feel good that our system is effective right now,” Fitzgerald said. “At least in our league, it’s produced some wins for us. We want to see how it matches up with some out-of-league teams, the local and Denver kids. We’ll face a few of those. Then we’ll have the answer.”
Battle Mountain, 4-0 in the 4A Slope, hosts Vail Mountain on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Eagle Valley (3-2, 3-1) heads up to Steamboat Springs.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and email@example.com.