Ignacio Volleyball head coach Thad Cano possibly had the best vantage point in the house.
He didn't, however, have a camera.
With the Volleycats rallying back from a 13-9 deficit in a Game 5 tiebreaker against Telluride on Saturday, Oct. 6, senior Amethyst Egger-Morris fired a service ace to slice the visitors' lead down to 13-12. Junior Makayla Howell and senior Kiana Valdez then teamed up to stonewall a THS attack at the near antenna as the IHS Gymnasium fans exploded and THS skipper Rhea dePagter urgently called timeout.
"I wish I had a picture of that block, because it was a perfectly squared, closed block!" said a beaming Cano. "That block, at a high-school level, was great; there's not many hitters in the state that could have hit around that. As we went through the match, we were really working on celebrating the good stuff that we were doing. Whether it was a good hit, good serve, just really celebrating. And that was tremendous celebrating!"
Miner Anna Krownapple then sent an attack wide, suddenly putting IHS at match point. Telluride's Baylee Williams managed to stave off defeat, something the 'Cats were tired of, having recently dropped 10 consecutive matches before an Oct. 2 win at Mancos, with a kill off diving libero Ebonee Gomez. Howell struck back with a roll shot into space.
THS managed to safely field Ignacio's next match-point serve and return it, but Howell pounded down another kill to secure a wild 25-22, 14-25, 25-18, 24-26, 16-14 victory.
That made up for a 15-25, 9-25, 13-25 loss inside the MinerDome back on Sept. 15.
"We lost in three the first time we played them, so I think we just really needed to win," Howell said. "And they had a really good block, so we were ready; we knew what we were competing against."
"In the set losses against Telluride our communication wasn't there," Cano added. "In the wins, especially in the last seven points, I think, of the fifth, the girls started communicating really, really well."
"The big thing is the girls are learning to play for purpose, and play aggressive," he continued. "Our losing streak that we had, they were waiting for other teammates to take the ball instead of them wanting the ball."
Sporting October-specific pink jerseys, the 'Cats survived a back-and-forth Game 1 before the Miners led Game 2 wire-to-wire and finished it off with what IHS' players didn't want to see: Senior middle Jess Pack rejecting senior Reyna Cruz, and making it look relatively easy.
Somehow, Ignacio completely shook off the setback, in which Telluride's lead grew to as great as 20-6, and ran away early in Game 3, never looking back after going up 2-1.
Freshman Alexis Pontine fired three aces in a four-point stretch, increasing IHS' lead to 7-1, and Valdez later landed three consecutive gems to put the home team up 14-3. And though THS (9-8, 3-4 SJBL) fought back to as close as 21-18 after a Cano timeout, IHS would go up 2-1 in the match when Williams spiked into the net.
Led by Williams and Pack, however, Telluride raced out to an 8-1 lead in Game 4 before a five-point Ignacio streak tied the score at 11-all. But in looking to recover from a home loss to Dove Creek the night before, the Miners remained the aggressors and built a 23-20 lead before back-to-back Howell aces re-tied the score.
Egger-Morris then missed an attack, but Pontine scored with a delicate dink, evening things at 24-24 before she then sent a shot long and IHS bumped a game-point free ball into the net, necessitating the deciding Game 5.
"We've been focusing on, in game action and in practice, that everything has to be for a purpose," said Cano. "We have three contacts on this side, you want to be one of the three contacts! Play aggressive, play for purpose. And the rewards are starting to show and pay off; I'm so very happy with this success."
"Taking the 'W' was great," Howell said. "We kept our heads up. We've had a couple losses but we're still playing together, focusing and practicing as hard as we can. That's what matters."
Up next, Ignacio will travel to Ridgway on Oct. 13 and to Dolores on the 16th, then host DCHS on Oct. 19. The Cats are now 4-11, and 3-5 in 2A/1A San Juan Basin play.