The Pagosa volleyball team needed a couple wins and, last week, the Pirates got them — defeating Kirtland Central 3-2 at home, Thursday, and traveling to La Jara Friday to secure a critical 3-1 Intermountain League victory over Centauri.
The Pirates started strong against the Kirtland Broncos, a team depleted by the loss of eight seniors from last year’s squad. The Pirates won games one and two 25-12, 25-18.
Then, a combination of a strategic move by Pagosa Coach Andy Rice, and a surge by a still very competent Bronco defense, put the game even, Kirtland winning 25-14, 25-18.
The Pirates prevailed 15-8 in the deciding fifth game to take the match over their determined opponent.
“Things went smoothly in the first two games,” said Rice. “But, then, I tinkered with the lineup and went to a six-two scheme in the third game, and we almost paid the price.”
Rice shifted back to the 5-1 setup for the fourth game, but it took his team until the fifth game to find the rhythm again.
“I’m happy we pulled it out,” said Rice. “We showed some fortitude and pretty much crushed them in that last game. It was important for us to beat them; this is the first time in my tenure we’ve done it, and it was also good to get a five-game win.”
Shelby Stretton had 12 kills against the Broncos; Kala Matzdorf had 10.
Allison Hart logged 34 assists during the match and Sienna Stretton managed 18 digs.
The IML win in Centauri’s gym was a must for Pagosa.
With two league losses — to Bayfield and Monte Vista, both at home — the Pirates were in position with a loss to fall far enough behind league leader Bayfield and second-place Monte to make a run at the regular season title difficult, if not impossible.
With a 25-17, 23-25, 25-27, 25-18 victory over the Falcons, Pagosa remained within striking distance of at least second place in the standings, with the last round of league matches coming up and the district tourney on the horizon.
The win over Centauri came in the Falcons’ home gym — never an easy place to pull off the victory. “Strange things have happened there,” said Rice, referring to the Falcons’ lair. “We gave away the second game, but we were able to come back. It didn’t go to five games and we were pleased to come out of there with a win. Anything can happen over there, to anyone.”
Senior middle Jennifer Low was a force on offense with eight kills, in 23 attempts.
Shelby Stretton hit well, getting eight kills in 19 attempts. The senior outside also had seven digs during the match.
Matzdorf continued to be productive, going six for 14 on the night. Megan Bryant and Breezy Bryant each added four kills to the Pagosa total.
Hart put up 28 assists and was tough at the net on defense, with two solo blocks. Hart and Casey Meekins each had five digs in the backcourt. Sienna Stretton led the way in the back, with 11 digs against Centauri.
The Pirates had a productive night at the serve line, scoring with 16 aces in 88 serves. Breezy Bryant served five aces, Matzdorf four
A crucial IML test awaits the Pirates tonight, as the team travels to Bayfield to meet the league leader. The two teams have spoiled each others’ parties the last few seasons and a Pagosa win tonight is certainly not out of the picture.
“Somehow, last year, we found a way to do it, without Allison Hart (benched with an injury),” said Rice, referring to a win at Bayfield. “If we want to make sure the league race is wide open, we need to come out strong and win the match.”
Saturday, the team takes the longest road trip of the regular season, to Fowler for the Grizzly Invitational. Traditionally, the Fowler tourney has featured some of the top teams from the southeastern plains, and the action provides a great opportunity to fine-tune the game prior to the stretch run of the season. This year’s lineup is as strong as ever, featuring three ranked teams: Fowler (2A) McClave (1 A) and Lamar (3A). Sangre de Cristo, another strong 2A program, also joins the fray.
“Talk about a good measuring stick,” said Rice. “This tournament provides great competition every season.”