Battle Mountain outlasts Steamboat in four
EDWARDS — It didn’t go five games, but it sure felt like it did.
Battle Mountain volleyball outlasted Steamboat Springs in a clash of 4A Slope unbeatens, 25-22, 25-20, 23-25, 31-29, on Thursday night in Edwards as both teams finished the first half of league play. The Huskies took temporary possession of first place in the league with the win.
Just in case anyone’s wondering, the Sailors host the Huskies on Oct. 14 in the rematch.
“It’s absolutely gut-churning or stomach-upsetting, or however you want to define it,” Huskies coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “I have good faith in my girls. They’ve worked hard for the last four years for me. This was an incredibly challenging night.”
One of many reasons it was a challenging night was that Huskies setter Maddie Perkins went down in a heap, rolling her ankle during pre-game. And that put Battle Mountain sophomore Haley Frischholz in the spotlight as the team’s new setter.
“Everything, internally, stopped,” Frischholz said of the moment it dawned on her that she was going to run the show. “But our team really pulled it out. We really worked together.
“I’ve set before for the varsity team before. But everything’s different. Everything’s faster, especially since I’ve bee libero (defensive specialist) for the past year. It was a bit of a hectic moment for me.”
Battle Mountain looked like it didn’t miss a beat in the first two games, building a 2-0 lead, and that was concerning Sailors coach Wendy Hall.
“We were not ready to play tonight,” said Hall, whose team lost its first match of the year on Thursday. “For the first time all year, we looked intimidated in that first and second set and that cost us. After I kind of chewed on them, we finally got that look off our face. And from that point forward, I felt like the level of volleyball came up.”
Fourth and very long
The Sailors responded to Hall and took the third and looked like they were on their way early in the fourth with leads of 9-4 and 17-14, before the Huskies started to rally behind an Emily Clinton attack and two aces from Mackenzie Ellison.
Tied at 17, there was controversy. Steamboat’s Jenna Miller hit the ball into the net for a Battle Mountain point, but Hall was adamant that a Huskies player got an elbow tied up in the netting, which caused it to move to the point where it could block Miller’s shot.
Hall protested to no avail at that moment and insisted it was “a critical call at a critical time,” but repeatedly said that decision did not cost her team (12-1 overall and 6-1 in the Slope) the match. She referenced her team’s play in the first two sets.
Battle Mountain got to the first of many match points at 24-21 with a Sofia Calabrese and Timaree McKenny block, and then the marathon started.
The Sailors’ Harper Mattox put one down, followed by two points from teammate Annie Osborne and a kill from Riley Wilkinson and Steamboat led 25-24.
The two teams combined for seven game/match points and ties at 27, 28 and 29.
“You might have heard us on the bench screaming, ‘Bread and butter,’” Fitzgerald said.
Bread and butter would be Ellison and Jordan Brandt. (Battle Mountain’s Emily Clinton also went down with an apparent ankle sprain during this marathon.) Teams like to mix it up offensively, but come crunch time, playing to a strength is a good idea.
“It’s never been like that before,” Frischholz said of the final game. “Our crowd was really amazing. What it really came down to was two points.”
Ellison was clutch for Battle Mountain in that final set and Brandt finished it out with two kills for those elusive two points.
“It was sure nice to see both teams battling hard, swinging at the end,” Hall said. “It was good volleyball. It’s good for both teams to play at that level.”
More to come
Battle Mountain hosts its Queens of the Mountain Tournament on Saturday. The Huskies (10-1 and 7-0) play Alamosa, Golden, Middle Park, Aurora West College Prep Academy and Vail Christian. Meanwhile, the Sailors host Montrose in a stern nonconference test on Saturday.
And, yes, the two teams meet up north on Oct. 14.
“I expect it to be another incredible match, four or five sets,” Fitzgerald said. “I expect their fans to shake the gym. They’re a fantastic program and they’ll be ready for us.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.