Delta celebrated a 3-0, 25-20, 25-12, 25-18 win against Hotchkiss Thursday night, Sept. 20. While they were favored to win, they were also trying out a new rotation.
Game three was the Bulldogs best effort for the night. After starting the game with an 8-0 deficit, Hotchkiss trailed by four points throughout much of the latter half of the game.
The Panthers have made a few changes since their 3-0 loss to Paonia on Sept. 11. "I'm pretty proud of the girls," said head coach Beth Nelson. "They are working extremely hard." With three players returning from last year's 16-9 varsity roster, "It's a young team."
Junior Madi Gieck had four kills, four serving aces and 12 errorless serve receives and was named Player of the Game. Senior setter Abby Carlson had 13 assists and freshman Jillian Carlson 10 assists for the game. Senior Sara Geddes had 11 kills in 23 attacks, and Lauren Davey put away five kills in 19 attacks.
The Panthers were also facing Bulldogs senior Carson Collins, currently ranked second in state in hitting and third in blocks. The Bulldogs also have power hitters Amelia Hickham and Aubrey Harward, and senior Elsie Vasquez, who averages 2.3 digs per set.
It was a valuable experience for the team, said Nelson. "We're at a point right now where we're taking our season one game at a time. Every varsity team we play has been a challenge for us."
But their main focus is on "our side of the net and taking care of the ball," said Nelson. Against Paonia, "We made a lot of errors... Yeah, we want to play against those big hitters, but we've got to take care of it on our side."
The Panthers also have 5-10 junior opposite/middle blocker Julia Mewhinney and 5-11 freshman Erika Kuta in the rotation. Nelson said the team is trying different lineups "...until we find something that we like and that is working." This week, Davey moved to the right side after two years of playing at middle hitter, giving the team a bigger front line for when they come up against teams with good outside hitters.
"This is the first game that we've tried that," said Nelson. "We like it."
The Panthers also made 90 percent of their serves including 11 aces -- four by Carlson and four by Gieck. The team is averaging just shy of 90 percent in serves this season. "Anymore, with rally scoring, they have to get the serve over the net," said Nelson. "You want to be aggressive with your serves" while limiting the misses.
For Delta, the win came on the heels of a 3-2 conference loss to Cedaredge. They ended the week at 6-4 overall and ninth in 3A RPI rankings; At 8-1, Cedaredge comes in at No. 6. The Panthers faced Palisade Tuesday night. The 4A Bulldogs were 8-3 overall and 15th in RPI standings heading into the game. Tuesday night the Panthers host No. 17 Aspen (8-2).
"That's going to be a big challenge for us," said Nelson of the match against Palisade. We're gonna go with the same line-up. That's why we practiced it tonight."
In Friday's conference match against De Beque (11-0, 6-0, 2A/1A Western Slope League), Hotchkiss dropped to 4-7, 1-4 on a 3-0, 25-19, 25-10, 25-22 loss. They travel to Paonia Friday night.