Able to emphatically expel the bad taste a five-game upset loss last week at Mancos left in their collective maw, the Ignacio High School volleyball team will look to resume their raid on the 2A/1A San Juan Basin League this Saturday afternoon when it will host Telluride.
But in being one week removed from an authoritative, bounce-back sweep of Ouray, IHS’ efforts versus the Miners will certainly have ramifications before a long-anticipated trip Tuesday to Dolores for the first of two tussles with the SJBL’s defending champs.
“I’ve got hard decisions to make, and I’m going to be playing with the lineup,” said Ignacio head coach Thad Cano, noting he’d successfully trotted out three variations in the Ouray rout. “The girls understand that they can perform at any different rotation; they knew that if we had to change the lineup, it wasn’t the end of the world. I’m just worried which has the best dynamic that brings everyone together.”
He’ll get a great guess against the Miners, off to a 7-2 overall (1-1 SJBL) start prior to a scheduled visit to Ridgway the evening before invading IHS Gymnasium.
Having already played a wide array of opponents in 2019, including Aurora-based 3A Lotus School for Excellence, Craig-based 3A Moffat County, and even Baggs, Wyoming-based 1A Little Snake River Valley, Telluride managed to push Dolores to four games before falling. But, like Ignacio, Telluride recovered on the 14th with a 25-16, 25-20, 26-24 sweep at home of Mancos.
The Miners’ only other loss came in four against a resurgent Little Snake River Valley (7-3 overall in ’19 as of Thursday morning; 8-14-2 in ’18) back on Aug. 31 at the Soroco Invitational up in Oak Creek.
Featuring senior Danika Petit offensively along with rising sophomore Emery Berry and veteran juniors Kyra Levan (the team’s ace and dig leader) and Morgan Watkinson (assist leader), Cano knows his Bobcats can’t underestimate the imminent threat of Telluride.
“We went into our Mancos match a little too not focused; more focused on cheerleading than the job at hand,” he said. “But we actually had a real good conversation, so, yeah, I think we’re back in the ballgame.”
Cano called Telluride’s Rhea dePagter a great fundamental coach who knows volleyball and said the Miners have size on their side.
“The whole key: Can you take them out of system if they’re better than you and be able to go forth,” Cano said.
IHS (4-1 overall, 2-1 SJBL, 1-1 2A SJBL) will be capable of doing so should an up-tempo offense frequently utilizing quick sets to the middle, plus a devastating serve game, be established early. In the Bobcats’ 25-10, 25-10, 25-21 trouncing of Ouray, Cano said he was able to use both incumbent junior Marisa Carmenoros and JV/varsity swing junior Jayden Brunson at setter while also shuffling players at other positions in order to ready them for unknowns Telluride and Dolores may throw their way.
“As far as setters, I can even go deeper than that,” said Cano. “So, I’m not worried about that. Marisa, when she’s not setting, she’s an amazing defensive player, so if she ends up a (defensive specialist), I feel wholeheartedly she’ll embrace that role. She wants what’s best for the team.”
Cano also saluted performances against the Trojans by front-row presences Grace Gonzales, a freshman, and sophomore Alexis Pontine as promising for good days against both THS and DHS.
“Grace has all the power; we’ve just got to get her to be more consistent,” he stated. “Lexi, who even against Mancos had a very clean hitting match, had a very clean match against Ouray. And (Makayla Howel), she wants it; she’s been a big part of keeping everyone together.
“With the exception of (Dolores senior) Jordan Elder, I don’t think anyone as a whole can hit as hard as we do.”
And Cano now hopes no squad in the circuit will think as hard as the ’Cats. Still No. 7 in the week-starting CHSAANow.com Class 2A rankings (Telluride was an “Others Receiving Votes” team), Ignacio’s practices this week were also to include a visit or two from a psychologist in order to help the players excel at the brain game.
“I’ve been going to the national AVCA convention every year since before I even started coaching in Pagosa,” said Cano. “And one of the big things the last six years is the sports-psychology part of all athletic programs. So, we’re going to add that component to really be that upper-, high-level team; we’re looking forward to seeing what these psychologists bring.”