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One week into the new season and the Pirate volleyball team is 2-2, with the coach seeing improvement from a young squad at each outing.
The season began with a home match on Aug. 29, against perennial 4A rival Montezuma Cortez.
While Pagosa went down to defeat to the Panthers 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 24-26, 14-25), there was only a one-game lapse in play by a team that includes a significant number of sophomores and freshmen.
“We didn’t play all that poorly,” said coach Connie O’Donnell, “but for one game.”
O’Donnell used the experience to make some key observations and one stood out in the Pirate effort against the Panthers: Pagosa needs to capitalize on its speed and a quick attack.
“We needed to use our middles more, take advantage of them,” said the coach. “We set the outside many times when we should have gone to the middle, and attacked them where they seemed fairly vulnerable.”
The first match gave the team a chance to bring some recent shifts in personnel and positions to a game-speed situation.
“We had some good moments,” said the coach, “but the girls are still getting used to the changes we made.”
Saturday, the players boarded a bus and traveled to Monte Vista to play three matches against teams from the Southern Peaks League.
Pagosa’s first outing was against Sargent. The Pirates defeated the Indians in four games: 25-22, 9-25, 25-23, 25-20.
“It was the first match of the day for us,” said O’Donnell. “The second game was ugly; we got stuck in a rotation and had trouble getting out.”
Noting this kind of dilemma is typical for younger players, the coach added, “This is a matter of mental toughness and training and, as the season goes on, we’ll learn to get out of these situations.”
The Pirates had little trouble with Center in the day’s second tilt, running the table 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-13).
Pagosa’s service game gave the Vikings trouble and scored points for the Pirates. “We have more girls jump serving than not,” said the coach.
In the final match of the tournament, Pagosa faced off against the Sangre de Cristo Thunderbirds. Sangre has put strong teams on the court during the last decade, advancing many of them to the state 2A championship tourney, and has taken quite a few victories from Pagosa along the way.
Saturday proved no different as the team from the Valley got the 3-1 win over the Pirates (21-25, 11-25, 27-25, 23-25).
O’Donnell saw several things that encouraged her during the match with Sangre, not the least of which was a stellar effort in the final game.
Sangre was at 24, poised to take the game and match, but Pagosa held on. Megan Farrah served for nine consecutive points, holding the Thunderbirds at the edge as the Pirates crept back into contention — one point from knotting it up and creating what is, essentially, a new game for both teams.
“In that last game,” said O’Donnell, “the girls came back as Megan served nine points with Sangre de Cristo at twenty-four. It was hard to lose, but I was impressed with the comeback and I have to think, if we had managed to take the game, we would have won the final, deciding game.”
What the past week brings to the young team is a clearer idea of strengths and weaknesses, and it shows that work on the mental game is in order, as it always is in volleyball and, in particular, for younger players.
The next chance to put the training to the test is Saturday, at Monte Vista, at a tourney featuring the Intermountain League teams — Pagosa, Monte Vista, Alamosa, Centauri and Bayfield. The tournament gives the Pirates a first on-court look at their league rivals and gives coaches an opportunity to plan for the two regular season matches their team plays against the other IML squads.
“I got to see Centauri and Monte Vista last Saturday,” said the coach, making it clear that nothing really matters until the first serve. “I think we’ll do well, with some mental prep. We’re young and green, but these girls don’t have a fear. They’ve improved with every match we’ve played so far, and I think they’ll keep improving.”
Tournament action at the Monte Vista High School gym begins at 8 a.m.