Paonia High School’s volleyball team, despite being in a supposed rebuilding year, found its way into the 2018 post-season playoffs where it defeated Calhan, 3-0, and fell to Denver Christian, 3-0, to end a highly successful 14-11 season.

This year’s team is off to a great start with wins against Caprock Academy and Vail Christian on Sept. 3 and Sept. 5, respectively. The Eagles defeated both teams to begin the 2018 season and are gaining confidence each week. Paonia eased past Caprock, 25-22, 25-22 and 25-22, Sept. 3 and came up from behind against Vail Christian to post a four-set (22-25, 25-18, 25-23 and 25-22) win Sept. 5.

Against Caprock, seniors Lyla Baril and Sadie Miller finished with 12 and eight kills, respectively, with Baril adding 11 digs to her stats. Miller had nine digs and 15 service receptions to go with her eight kills.

Senior Carly Horn had four aces in the match and was the assists leader for the Eagles with 12. Juniors Lauryn Kiefer and Taneal Mautz had seven and six digs, respectively. Junior Ceylon Carter and Mautz added 13 receptions to their totals for the match.

In the Sept. 5 match against Vail Christian, the two teams battled evenly for the entire first set. Neither team could pull away with solid defenses, and determined play on offense, made watching the enjoyable competition a treat for fans of both teams. The first set took a decided turn in Vail Christian’s favor on the Saints’ Abby Kuhns’ service to boost Vail Christian’s lead to 24-21. A Paonia side out left the score at 24-22 in favor of Vail Christian. Mautz’s service became a point for the Saints for a 25-22 win for the visitors.

The Eagles built an 8-3 lead in set two and eventually stretched that lead to 21-11. Vail Christian fought back to make the final score a 25-18 win for the Eagles and tie the match at 1-1.

Set three belonged to Paonia in its initial stages. The Saints tied the set at 10-10 and an alternating lead between the two teams highlighted the game until Paonia took a time out leading 20-18. Mautz delivered the winning touch when she took service with the Eagles holding a 23-22 lead. Paonia kept service for the final two points and earned a 25-23 decision for a 2-1 lead in the match.

Paonia led 10-6 in the fourth set and the Saints took a time out to regroup. The ploy was too late and the Eagles built a 16-9 advantage that was supposed to be a cushion to victory. Vail Christian went on a run which cut the Eagles’ lead to 19-17. Paonia held on to claim a 25-21 decision for the game-winner and a 3-1 advantage.

Miller had 12 kills for the Eagles with Baril and Carter serving three aces apiece. Digs leaders were Carter (18), Lauryn Kiefer (12) and Miller (10). Carter was the assist leader for Paonia with 16 and Carly Horn finished with 14. Serve reception leaders were Miller (14), Baril and Kiefer with 13 and Mautz with 10.

The trip to last weekend’s Dawson School tournament was an eyeopener for Paonia players and fans. The Eagles played three games (Union Colony Prep, Greeley; Lyons and Twin Peaks Charter Academy, Longmont). The first two contests were losses for the Eagles with the final game against Twin Peaks Charter going into the win column.

Paonia head volleyball coach, Ce’rra Carsten, had several comments for her team’s experience in the tournament.

“We had a tough loss to Union Colony (25-15 and 25-13),” Carsten said. “They ran a quick offense but our girls struggled against it defensively at the beginning and then toward the end of the game they started figuring it out. The quick efficient offense is something we don’t see very often within our league.”

Paonia played well in game two against Lyons before falling 2-1 to the Lions. “Against Lyons we won the first set (25-15), then we struggled offensively in the second (17-25) and third (11-15) games but served well.”

Carsten didn’t have the scores for Paonia’s 2-0 win against Twin Peaks Charter Academy. She did offer a few side notes on player performances in the tournament.

“After this weekend we got a taste of how competitive the eastern slope league teams actually are,” Carsten said. “Carly Horn (senior setter) had a great weekend with a high number of assists. Ceylon Carter had several aces with her serving and has finished the first five games with a perfect serving percentage.”

On the defensive side of the net Carsten had accolades for one of her players. “Junior Taneal Mautz was the highlight player on defense in my opinion. She led the team in serve receive attempts and passed well throughout the weekend,” she said.

In looking ahead, Carsten sees the season as a work in progress with one last thought. “We have a lot to work on offensively but our passing is there and our setters do a good job on that second ball contact and just have to fill that last piece of the game,” Carsten said.

This week’s volleyball schedule included a single varsity match against De Beque Sept. 10. The next varsity games on the schedule are 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Delta and 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20, at home with Coal Ridge.

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