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Paonia volleyball to districts, finish strong

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Photo by Eric Goold Paonia senior Ashley Van Vleet knocks in a kill just over the double block of Hannah Gilmore (33) and Nellie Freeman (11). Paonia won on Senior Night, and the teams split their regular season matchups.

The Eagles volleyball team got just what the doctor ordered.

After suffering through an uncharacteristic mid-season slump, Paonia recovered to win eight consecutive matches and heads to districts this weekend with tons of momentum.

On Senior Night last Tuesday, the Eagles (16-3) put together one of their strongest matches of the year, avenging one of those mid-season losses by beating Cedaredge 21-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-19.

"Cedaredge was a great match for us in terms of confidence," Paonia coach Krista Carsten said. "We did a good job of staying composed when we needed to, and our middles did their jobs putting the ball away when we needed a side-out. I'm really proud of the entire team effort."

Paonia honored seniors Taylor Carsten, Ashley Van Vleet and Emily Clawson before the match.

"These three girls have been so important to the success of our team," Carsten said. "Taylor brings so much wisdom and knowledge of the game to the floor. I guess that is part of growing up in a gym and having a coach for a mom. Ashley has developed into such a dynamic hitter. There is no doubt that when she is on, she is pretty much unstoppable because of her height and jumping ability.

"Emily is one of those players who can fill a lot of different roles," Carsten said. "The quality that I admire most in her is her leadership and kindness that she provides to our younger players. Definitely three key players in our program who are instrumental in our success and it has been a wonderful experience coaching them."

Paonia wrapped up the regular season with straight-set wins over Caprock and Hotchkiss.

"Both Caprock and Hotchkiss have improved greatly," Carsten said. "And with the Cedaredge win, it was a solid week for us."

Paonia heads to Grand Valley High School for this weekend's 2A District 5 tournament competition.

The top three teams from that tournament will go on to regionals.

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