Hayden falls to Hotchkiss in district opener

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— Sports oftentimes aren’t fair.

Sometimes, they're downright brutal.

And as the Hayden High School girls entered the opening round of the district tournament Tuesday at home, things just didn’t seem fair.

The Tigers were without two starters. Senior Belle Mazzola has battled a knee injury all year. Next to her was junior Jordan Temple, who suffered a bruised sternum after Saturday’s game and wasn’t cleared to play.

In their place, the Tigers had to run out three freshmen. In the end, it wasn’t fair, but Hotchkiss was the better team Tuesday, pulling the upset 3-1.

Hotchkiss won, 25-18, 21-25, 25-15 and 25-18.

“It seems like a never-ending battle,” Tigers coach Christene Planansky said. “But what can you do?”

The Bulldogs came into the game with a 2-16 record and were considered the underdogs, having dropped a game to the Tigers in just three sets earlier in the season.

But Hotchkiss took control from the outset and found room in the middle with Daryl Batt providing most of the offense.

Winning the first set was key for a team that hasn’t had much success this season.

“That was huge,” Bulldogs coach Kendal Roberts said. “We tend to get down, and that was a good momentum swing.”

The Tigers shook whatever nerves they may have had in the second, coming back from multiple deficits. Hayden took its first lead of the set at 18-17 and never looked back.

In the third, though, any momentum Hayden may have had vanished with mishits and errors.

Playing like a new team, Hotchkiss quickly closed the game out.

“The goal was to get that first set out of the way and know you could play with them,” Planansky said. “The biggest thing was losing the third set. I don’t think they ever had doubt, but that scared them.”

Hayden ends the season 10-8 overall. Hotchkiss advances to the district tournament Saturday in Paonia.

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham

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