Monday night's pigtail game between the Soroco Rams and Coal Ridge Titans had playoff implications for both teams.
The winner earned the right to advance to this weekend's district tournament in Paonia and face top-seeded Meeker, Rangely and Plateau Valley in pool play. For the team that lost the match, it marked the end of the 2005 season.
But for Soroco's Cortni Denning, Kyla Schmidt, Caitlin Knudsen and Vanessa Eaton, the reason for winning this match was more personal.
"This was our last match in this gym," Schmidt said. "We all wanted to go out with a win."
The Rams did just that.
Soroco made getting past Coal Ridge, a school that just opened in Newcastle, look easy. The home team knocked off the Titans in three games, 25-10, 25-18 and 25-14.
"I was a little anxious going into this match," Soroco coach Betsy Photos said. "We just beat these guys on Saturday, so I had no idea how my players were going to react."
But the Rams showed up to play, setting the tone against Coal Ridge's inexperienced group of freshman and sophomore players.
Amanda Wilson, a sophomore, led the way for the Rams with nine kills and two blocks. Schmidt and freshman Sarajane Rossi had five kills each, and Eaton had four. Rossi also had two blocks.
Photos said she was happy with her team's serving in first and third games, but she thought the Rams could have been stronger in the middle game.
Soroco set the tone early in Monday's match. With the game at 5-4, junior Toni Lombardi and her teammates strung together seven straight points to give the Rams a 12-5 advantage. Schmidt kept things rolling off the Rams' next serve, setting up a 6-point run for the home team.
Photos thought the team's block could have been better in the game, but it was effective in taking away the angles for the Coal Ridge players.
The Titans were led by freshman Sierra Grove, who finished with six kills. Callie Schlegel, Kelly Romero and Brittany Smith had two kills each. But Coal Ridge never got on a roll in this contest, and by the third game, the team's spirit was gone.
"Most of our players are freshmen, so this season was about picking up experience," coach Denise Green said after the match. "They played well, and their hitters did a great job of putting the ball away when they needed it. They were also very patient at times and allowed us to make a lot of mistakes."
The Rams' success came without the help of starters Glenda Long and Emily Straight, who missed Monday's match and will miss this weekend's tournament to attend a national FFA meeting.
But the Rams also got a boost from Lombardi and Rossi, who stepped in to fill the gaps for the Rams.
"Those players did a great job of filling," Eaton said. "This group has a great team chemistry."
The victory means the seniors got their wish to finish at home with a win, and the team is feeling good headed into the district tournament, where they know the competition is only going to get harder. But after playing a five-game match against Rangely last week and beating Coal Ridge twice, the Rams will head into the district tournament with newfound confidence.
"We've come a long way since the start of the season," Denning said. "We've got a lot of confidence headed into districts, and we really don't have anything to loose."
The Rams and the Hayden Tigers will open the district tournament Friday in Paonia. Hayden will play in a pool with Paonia, West Grand and Grand Valley.
The tournament will continue Saturday with the top two teams advancing to the regional tournament.
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