Huskies spikers headed to state tournament
EDWARDS — Survive and advance.
That’s been the motto for Battle Mountain volleyball, and the Huskies did just that on Saturday by winning the Class 4A Region 9 Tournament and advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2007.
The No. 9 Huskies (22-3) defeated No. 28 Windsor in three games, 25-16, 25-15, 26-24, and No. 16 Mountain View in a five-game thriller, 28-26, 27-25, 20-25, 14-25, 15-7.
“It’s a true reward,” Huskies coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “This is four years building this program. We were 4-15 my first year. Now, we get a shot to go play on the big floor, and that’s all we wanted. And these girls earned it.”
Battle Mountain will head to the Denver Coliseum on Friday in pursuit of its first volleyball state title since 2006.
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After failing to advance past the regional tournament last year as the No. 5 seed, there was no way the Huskies were going to let another opportunity pass.
“Last year, we were too cocky. We were too confident,” Huskies setter Maddie Perkins said. “We kind of just blew it off and didn’t take it as seriously as we should have.”
Perkins injured her ankle warming up before the match against Steamboat Springs on Oct. 2, a marathon win for Battle Mountain.
Up one game, the Huskies trailed Windsor, 10-3, in the second when Fitzgerald put No. 5 in with the hopes of creating a spark.
Consider the Huskies fully ignited.
The first play for Perkins, she set up Jordan Brandt for the spike to get Battle Mountain rolling again. Down by seven when Perkins returned, the Huskies ended up winning the game 25-15, a 22-5 swing after Perkins made her return.
“I was really nervous for this, to be honest, because I haven’t played in a game,” Perkins said. “It just feels so good to come back for this game and just win it and be going to state.”
“It is so exciting. She just brings a whole new level to the court,” senior Mackenzie Ellison said. “It makes us want to play better.”
With Perkins out for almost a month, Haley Frischholz filled in at the setter position, and Fitzgerald gave high praise to the sophomore. But with Perkins, it’s just a tale of time.
“She’s been the starting setter for three years, and these seniors have been with her for that amount of time,” Fitzgerald said.
“I’ve also been playing with her for three years now,” Ellison said. “We can talk about it and we just have the feel on the court.”
DOWN TO THE WIRE
After handling the Wizards in three straight, the Huskies were en route to another sweep after jumping on Mountain View in the first two games. Eventually, in the third game, the Lions started making adjustments and figuring out the Huskies offense.
Trailing 20-19 in the third, Battle Mountain set up Brandt four times in a row for thunderous spikes, but the first three were blocked by the Lions and the fourth, a tip, didn’t catch anyone by surprise.
The fourth game against Mountain View got a little out of hand for Battle Mountain, a 25-14 loss, setting up the decisive fifth game for the chance to advance to the state tournament.
“I think the two things that helped us get out of this with the victory is we served very tough and we were more accurate tonight than on average,” Fitzgerald said.
And the sophomore that filled in at setter had her serve going in the fifth game. Winning 7-4, Frischholz rattled off six straight serves that resulted in Battle Mountain ballooning the lead to 13-4, including a beautiful ace that hit the back line.
The Huskies closed out the fifth with impressive defense and precision offense. Sophomore Timaree McKenny was causing headaches for the Lions at the net, along with seniors Emily Clinton and Sofia Calabrese, among others.
“Going into the fifth, I said this is our house,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re here to defend our floor. We’ve been in this situation multiple times this year. The pressure was on them; they had to beat us in our gym.”
After the first game against Mountain View, a Lions fan in the crowd said, “This is intense.” Meanwhile, the Huskies were on the floor laughing and dancing to “TNT” awaiting the second.
Last year’s letdown appears to be over with, and the senior setter has returned.
The Huskies survived, and they advance.