The Paonia High School volleyball team answered a lot of questions at Homecoming.
In front of an elaborately costumed and enthusiastic student section, Paonia swept Norwood 3-0 last Thursday night in its home opener.
The Eagles showed that even with a new offense, the talented, athletic and experienced volleyball team can look forward to a fifth consecutive appearance at the state tournament in November.
"They're fun to watch," coach Krista Carsten said. "They just play so hard."
Norwood brought a solid team against the Eagles led by senior Macie Magallon.
"We knew we had to shut down their big girl. I thought our girls did a nice job of blocking and frustrating her, forcing her to make some errors," Carsten said.
"She still had a couple of really, really nice hits, she's a great player, but our kids blocked well. It's kind of hard to hit the ball around that big block sometimes."
Game 1 was a back and forth affair that was tied several times before Paonia forced some Norwood errors and won 25-16.
In Game 2 Paonia took over. The Eagles best lineup of the night had the three McKenna's (senior McKenna Hartigan and juniors McKenna Palmer and McKenna Johnson) on the floor with senior standouts Emily Pieper, Brianna Van Vleet and Sophie Anderson.
"Offensively I was really pleased with where we are," Carsten said. "These kids are kind of firing on all cylinders and are working together very well, so I was very pleased with the way they played tonight."
Senior Randi Rapke, improving steadily at the libero position, served four aces to share the team lead with Van Vleet. Palmer was second on the team in kills with seven and is taller than anyone on the floor.
"She's just solid all the way around," Carsten said about Palmer. "We worked hard on developing the mental part of her game and realizing that she can't put the ball away every single time. She's just loving hitting on the left side. She winds up like no other sometimes, and she's had some really impressive hits."
Norwood did not make things easy for the Eagles and Game 3 was the most entertaining of the night. Behind strong serving runs from Amber Padgett and Magallon, the visitors pulled ahead 18-16 and forced an Eagles timeout.
Pieper's kill won sideout and Hartigan slammed home a winner as the Eagles took the lead back 21-19. Hartigan was the team leader in kills (nine) and blocks
The Eagles won the third game 25-20.
"They're athletes. They're competitors," Carsten said. "They jump well. They work hard in the weightroom and that pays off when they get out on the volleyball floor."
The volleyball season is a long haul through a lot of matches, and Carsten hopes to see steady improvement in this early portion of the schedule.
"Just to maintain focus through the whole match, and to get to more balls that are out of system," Carsten said. "We were kind of chaotic at times tonight. We need to settle in and just be more controlled."
Eagles beat PVHS
Paonia opened the season on the road August 30 at Plateau Valley, winning 3-0.
The Eagles dominated the first game 25-4, then went on to win 25-13 and 25-18.
Senior Emily Pieper, who moved from outside hitter to setter in Paonia's new 5-1 offense this season, showed that the position change will not be a problem. Pieper had 18 assists against Plateau Valley and had 20 assists in the win over Norwood.
Paonia played Coal Ridge last night at home and is at Soroco on Friday and at Hayden on Saturday to complete the week's play.