Battle Mountain hustles for win over Eagle Valley
Vail, CO Colorado
GYPSUM, Colorado ” The scraps and bruises might hurt, but for Battle Mountain, the pain couldn’t feel better.
The Huskies earned a hard-fought, four-set victory over archrival, Eagle Valley, in Gypsum Tuesday night. All four games were competitive with Battle Mountain getting the better of the Devils 25-23, 20-25, 25-23 and 25-21.
“It was amazing,” the Huskies’ Erin Barker said. “All the crowd came in and we celebrated all together. It was really cool.”
Rarely did a point go by on Tuesday without a Battle Mountain or Eagle Valley player hitting the hardwood to keep the ball alive. Long rallies were common, and coupled with a handful of referee conferences, the match lasted more than two hours.
“Both sides were digging and playing a lot of balls,” Battle Mountain coach Brian Doyon said. “We had long rallies going throughout the match. That was a really impressive part of both sides’ play.”
The Huskies took control of a close first game behind their freshman, Samantha Miletich. With the score knotted at 21, Miletich slammed the ball to give Battle Mountain a one point lead. A few points later, Miletich came up with another kill to push the Huskies ahead 24-23, and eventually give them the Game 1 win.
Eagle Valley rebounded in Game 2. Alex Lassa ” also a freshman ” gave the Devils an early 3-2 lead with a spike. Later, Angela Phillips made it 12-9 Eagle Valley with another winner. A Karolina Zolniercyk kill finished the Game 2 win for the Devils.
“The girls played great,” Eagle Valley coach Shawn Weatherred said. “It was a great match. It was fun. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it too, but I was proud of the girls and how they fought to the end.”
Game 3 mirrored the first set in more than just the 25-23 final score. Both teams traded the lead for much of the game, until Battle Mountain found a way to pull out the victory. This time, it was Hannah Ellison and Barker who provided the big points for the Huskies.
Ellison tipped the ball over the net for a 22-19 advantage. On the next point, Ellison and Barker combined for a block to make it 23-19. Kacey Bair cut Battle Mountain’s lead to 23-21 with a block of her own, but it wasn’t enough.
Miletich again ended the game with a winner.
It appeared the match was headed for five games after Eagle Valley came out on fire in Game 4. Whitney Wright gave the Devils a 13-8 edge with a kill. Lassa and Zolniercyk combined for a block to push the lead to 15-8. Eagle Valley was strong at the net all night, making it difficult for the Huskies to get a clean spike.
“Kacey started out blocking everything,” Weatherred said. “We were getting a lot of touches. We were getting some blocks. Which is hard against their team because they cover the blocks so well.”
With the score 16-8, Doyon called a timeout to refocus his squad. The strategy worked as Battle Mountain reeled off 12 of the next 16 points to tie the match at 20.
“The girls played well,” Doyon said. “They bucked up. We started serving a little better, keeping them on defense a little bit more. The biggest thing is, we actually started getting some swings on balls. We switched some things up a little bit, and changed our point of attack. I don’t think they realized it until later in the game.”
The Huskies continued to play strong, and closed out the match, 25-21.
“I think we figured out we really didn’t want to play a fifth game,” Barker said. “We just wanted to finish it then. I feel like we all just came together.”
The victory is not only important for bragging rights, but it gives Battle Mountain a huge boost in the Slope standings. Eagle Valley still leads the league with a 9-1 mark (12-2 overall), but the Huskies are right behind at 8-1 (11-2 overall). If both teams are tied atop the standings at the end of the season, the Devils would win the tiebreaker because of their three-game victory over the Huskies earlier this season.
Battle Mountain is back in action on Thursday at Fruita Monument. Eagle Valley is off until Saturday when it plays Steamboat Springs and Moffat County in Steamboat.
Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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