The old Hotchkiss versus Paonia rivalry was rekindled in high school volleyball last Tuesday night in a match in Paonia's gym.
While the veteran Eagles showed they are still the top team in the region, Hotchkiss demonstrated solid teamwork, a strong team attitude and proved that the young Bulldogs are getting better every match.
Paonia started strong and then held on after Hotchkiss rallied in the match and the Eagles won 25-7, 25-11, 25-12.
Paonia is a tough place to play for any team, but first-year Hotchkiss head coach Taralee Williams was pleased with the way her charges responded to the challenge.
"Paonia is a great team, they're well-coached, they have awesome players, but I'm proud of the way that we didn't give up," Williams said. "We did a lot of good things. We actually I think played pretty decent."
The Bulldogs fell behind quickly in the first set after some hitting and service errors.
"We needed to start strong in the beginning. You can't get down and be 8-0 against a good team, you need to start strong at the beginning," Williams said. "But we did a lot of good things. I'm really proud of how we kept fighting."
The Bulldogs got their feet under them and responded with a strong second set behind Sophia Fisher, Gratia Fisher and freshman Carson Collins.
Sophomores Yasmine Gaub, Jordan Tamayo and Fatima Rodriguez are also part of the young core of Bulldogs that is showing there's a bright future ahead in Hotchkiss.
"Every day we get better," Williams said. "We are young, and just experiencing it helps. We're improving our serves, even more than last week. We just have to keep getting better every day."
Hotchkiss played its best set of the match in the third. It jumped out to a 3-1 lead and started to find a way to defend against Paonia's powerful outside hitting.
"Out of all the teams I've coached, this is the best team-oriented, family-oriented team I've ever had," Williams said. "So I'm really proud of them for that."
Emily Pieper led Paonia's effort with nine kills in the match. Taylor Carsten had 15 assists and eight aces to lead the Eagles from the service line.
Hotchkiss was a good test for the Eagles before Paonia faced 5A Grand Junction on Thursday night. While dropping only its second set of the year, Paonia rallied to beat the Tigers 25-18, 19-25, 27-25, 26-24.
Pieper again led the Eagles attack with 15 kills and McKenna Hartigan chipped in with 10 kills and 7 blocks in the win. Brianna Van Vleet recorded 5 aces and Carsten dished out 26 assists to lead the Eagles, who went to 7-0 on the season after the big win.