The Paonia volleyball team will take an almost perfect record to this Saturday's 2A District 5 tournament at Paonia High School. The Lady Eagles offense has made 755 kills in 228 attacks, served 233 aces and defensively have completed 1070 digs and 51 solo blocks to end regulation play at 19-0 (57-4) and in first place in the Western Slope League.
Carson Pipher had 11 kills and 11 digs, and Morgan Hartigan 10 kills in Paonia's Oct. 17 win over Hotchkiss. Paonia averaged almost 19 digs per set in Friday's 3-0 win over Plateau Valley (14-25, 25-27, 21-25). And Saturday the Lady Eagles finished the season with a lively three-game win over Rangely. The match was also the Eagles' sixth annual Pink Night fundraiser for Delta County Hospice, played in recognition of October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Head coach Krista Carsten gave praise to the Lady Panthers and said Rangely played better here than in their own house. In September, Paonia scored a season-high 22 aces and had one of its best blocking games of the season at Rangely.
"Rangely was a good, fun game, a good game to connect with other players," said junior Morgan Hartigan, who had 13 kills in the win.
Hartigan, a three-year starter for Paonia, said she's confident this year's team can win state, but that they're taking playoffs one game at a time.
Paonia has had some very close games, including a 27-25 win against Plateau Valley Friday. Playing the less-experienced teams can be a challenge, said Hartigan. "Not that we get out of rhythm. We like to have more fun, try new things, such as tandems and stacks, slides. We just like to run new things as if we were running them in a 'hard' game."
There are two other undefeated teams in the state. And Meeker, which handed Paonia two of its four set losses, is in second place in the WSL at 9-1. There will be some hard games. "We can't overlook anybody," said Carsten. Everybody's gunning for you and we have to step up no matter who we're playing. And we need to remember that. We can't let down."
Paonia placed fourth last season and was the first PHS team to qualify for state in 22 years. Paonia lost only one senior, and added several players to the roster, including sophomore starter Jessie Holt, a 5-foot, 9-inch middle blocker with a near-perfect serving record, blocker Ashley Van Vleet and freshman middle hitter McKenna Hartigan, both also 5-foot-9.
"It's nice to have depth on the bench, to be able to let other kids be able to see the floor, and save legs for the more challenging games," said Carsten, who in 2012 took six starters and two substitutes — Taylor Plymale and Claire Tracey — to state, along with a small contingency of JV players so they could experience a state tournament. Paonia's roster now lists 13 players.
While the starters don't like leaving the floor, "It's nice just to know you've got people behind you," said Carsten.
"They're all great players," said Hartigan. "If we lose one we can easily replace one."
Paonia hosted a pigtail elimination game against Soroco Tuesday (visit maxpreps.com for details). District pool play opens at 8 a.m. Saturday.blog comments powered by Disqus