The Hotchkiss High School volleyball team began the new season the right way.
In front of a raucous student section last Thursday evening in the Bulldogs' gym, Hotchkiss beat Ouray 25-20, 25-12 and 25-6, showing signs of much improvement and hinting at a bright future.
"Nerves played a part in the first game, then those kind of went away and we were able to do what we need to do," coach Taralee Williams said. "We still have a lot of work to do but it's definitely a good start."
As the scores indicate, the Bulldogs started slow but finished strong against the visiting Trojans. A young Bulldogs team showed confidence that was hard-earned during last year's tough season, when wins were hard to come by.
"Maturity," Williams said when asked to name the main difference between this year and last year. "It shows in the amount of work they put in lifting and coming to open gyms. That's a big part of it.
"It's amazing how much some of them have grown as athletes," Williams said. "They're able to go out there and be ready for what the game brings."
Hotchkiss has a lone senior on the roster, Tyra Jaramillo.
The strength of the squad is its junior class with players like Morgan Miller, Yasmine Gaub, Jordan Tamayo, Fatima Rodriquez and Ashley Ziemer.
"The juniors that played last year, they knew coming into the season that they would be the ones to lead the team," Williams said. "They have leadership qualities as is and I think that's pretty clear. They've stepped up to that role, and I just think they're going to get better and better."
Two sophomores, Carson Collins and Aubree Harward, will be relied upon and the Bulldogs have two freshmen starters in Shay Glaser and Elsie Vazquez.
"My girls have worked so hard all summer," Williams said. "We're young again, like we were last year. We're young but we've been working hard. They want to get better and they work hard at it, so I'm appreciative of that."
In her second year on the bench, Williams is delighted with the personality and character of her team.
"They support each other and that's a huge part of their success," Williams said. "They support each other and are happy for each other."
In the third game against Ouray, the Bulldogs were dominant and showed what Hotchkiss can look like with all of the pieces put together.
Tamayo started things off with a strong service run to put the Bulldogs ahead 4-1. Collins had a kill to make it 6-1, then Miller landed some serves as Hotchkiss led 8-1.
Collins and Tamayo had kills to put Hotchkiss in front 15-4.
Rodriquez served two aces and Gaub served the last five winners in a row to complete the win for the Bulldogs.
Many football players and students were in the stands behind the Hotchkiss bench, using a variety of cheers and songs to loudly motivate the Bulldogs.
"We are one big family here at Hotchkiss and they support each other," Williams said. "Our girls go out and support the football team and they come out here and support us so it's cool that they reciprocate. It's silly but we appreciate it. We love them and they love us, so it's cool."
The Bulldogs were at Caprock yesterday and are at the Rangely Tournament this weekend.
"We're going to take it game by game and just work on the little things," Williams said. "We still have a lot of fundamentals we need to improve on. I think we have a bright future ahead of us, so we just need to keep working hard and do what we need to do."