There's no denying Hotchkiss and Paonia are rivals, but the Bulldogs will have to wait another season to attempt a win over the Eagles after playing to a 3-0, 25-21, 25-7, 25-18 home loss last Friday.
Hotchkiss coach Peter Nethington said that while it was a tough loss, he wasn't unhappy with the team's performance. The team played far better than in 2016 when Hotchkiss was outscored by 45 point in straight sets. The last time Hotchkiss defeated Paonia in volleyball, or even won a set, was a 3-2 win in 2007.
Sure, the team would rather have won, but it was in it for two of three games and should have been in it for all three games. That second game "was definitely an anomaly," said Nethington. "That game was definitely out of character." It also led to a slow start to the third game, but there were a lot of good rallies, and big plays on both sides of the court.
Paonia remains undefeated in 2A/1A Western Slope conference play. Hotchkiss had a hard time containing senior McKenna Palmer, who completed 13 kills in 30 attacks. The Eagles worked all last week to prepare for last Thursday's game against 5A Grand Junction, said Palmer ahead of the Hotchkiss match. They came ready to play the best they have all season. It is, after all, a rivalry game.
The match also marked the annual Pink Event fundraiser. In honor of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Hotchkiss will donate proceeds from entry fees, a silent auction and drawings to the Delta County Memorial Hospital Oncology department.
"I'm not completely upset about how it turned out," said Nethington. This close to end of season, he's very pleased with where the girls are in relation to where they were last year and in the past few years. Their current 8-8 overall, 6-4 league records are the best Hotchkiss has played since 2009.
With three games remaining before playoffs, "We're in a good spot for the district tournament," said Nethington. "I'm not really worried. We're definitely moving along."