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Paonia volleyball 5-0 in middle of schedule

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia junior McKenna Hartigan, 1, returns the ball against Plateau Valley as junior Brianna Van Vleet, 6, looks on during game one of the Eagles' Homecoming win last Thursday.

The Paonia High School volleyball team is putting all the pieces together.

After beating Plateau Valley and Gunnison last week, the Eagles are up to 5-0 and are rolling into the middle portion of their schedule with some tough challenges ahead.

Plateau Valley came to the Paonia gym last Thursday and ran into an Eagles squad that was fired up for Homecoming.

Paonia started strong and, despite a brief letdown in the third set, pulled out a 3-0 match win against the visiting Cowboys.

"I think Plateau Valley is a much better team than they showed, and I do believe they played better as the match progressed," said Paonia coach Krista Carsten. "Our girls did play well, but I think our intensity wavered a little bit early in set three."

Brianna Van Vleet served 18 consecutive points from the line as the Eagles completely dominated the serving statistics in the match. Paonia served at a 94 percent clip in the win.

"As a whole, the team served aggressively, but we were much more relaxed from the service line, which results in fewer errors," Carsten said. "Consistent serving is definitely important in creating momentum in a match."

Paonia was helped along by 11 hitting errors by the Cowboys in the first set and by three big runs in the match. The Eagles ripped off 19 straight points in the first, 10 points in a row in the second and 11 consecutive points in the third set to complete the big Homecoming win.

The longest run by Plateau Valley was four points in the third set, and Paonia posted a whopping 54.5 team hitting percentage.

Paonia kept the momentum going in a road trip to Gunnison last Saturday. The Eagles won the match in three sets 25-18, 25-18, 25-10.

"We didn't really get into an offensive rhythm until late in the first set but still struggled through the second set offensively," said Carsten. "We played well in the third set, which is indicated by the score."

Taylor Carsten, Ashley Van Vleet and Emily Pieper shared the hitting load against Gunnison and finished with seven kills apiece.

McKenna Hartigan recorded four blocks and two aces while Brianna Van Vleet also had two aces in the contest for the Eagles.

Pieper's individual stats were bolstered by 13 digs and two aces and Taylor Carsten finished with 19 assists.

Up next this week for the Eagles is their first look at rival Hotchkiss on Tuesday followed by a big test against Grand Junction on Thursday. Both matches are at the Paonia gym.

"Against Hotchkiss our goal will be to execute and keep our intensity at a high level," Carsten said. "Against Grand Junction we will need to shut down Tia Wright, their leading outside hitter. It will definitely take a team effort to pull off the win."

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