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Mustangs earn more play by winning out at the end

West Grand volleyball seeded 23rd headed into Region 2 bracket

West Grand junior Maddy Probst celebrates a point vs. Hotchkiss on Saturday in Kremmling. West Grand won the match in three sets.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

How ’bout them Mustangs?

The West Grand volleyball has scratched, stampeded and stomped its way into the regional round of the Class 2A state tournament.

The Mustangs earned their place among the top 24 teams in Colorado with a ferocious finish to the 2021 spring season, recovering from a 1-4 start by winning seven of their last nine games.



The Mustangs (8-6 overall, 8-5 in Western Slope League) ended regular season play on Friday and Saturday by beating Hayden and Hotchkiss. Those were two wins West Grand badly needed after falling to Vail Mountain the week before.

“We’ve done all we can do,” coach Andrew Mericle said immediately after Saturday’s game.



Because last week was loaded with league games and West Grand was sitting on the bubble, it wasn’t clear how everything would shake out when the Mustangs beat Hotchkiss.

Mustangs sophomore Elisabet Buller tries to keep the ball in play vs Hotchkiss.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

West Grand had lost control of its destiny in the team’s loss to Vail Mountain (9-2) but responded with two wins in less than 19 hours to keep playoff hopes alive.

“We took care of business in three sets, both of them, so now we got to see what the computers say,” Mericle said.

Those victories capped off a fantastic run for Mustangs, in which West Grand bested Caprock Academy, Olathe, Plateau Valley, Rangely and De Beque, in addition to Hayden and Hotchkiss.

As a result, the computers rewarded the Mustangs with the 23rd seed and a Regional 2 round-robin facing No. 2 Denver Christian and No. 15 Addenbrooke Classical Academy at Denver Christian on Saturday.

Considering the competition ahead, the Mustangs have their work cut out for them again as they prepare to travel to regionals with a strong core of juniors and sophomores — but no seniors — on the team.

Junior Alex Schake winds up before spiking the ball against Hotchkiss.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

This team is a young one no doubt, but the players are also well-seasoned following last year’s state tournament run and this year, which has given the Mustangs plenty of competition but little rest in their quest for postseason play.

“The Western Slope might be the toughest league in the state,” Mericle said of the opponents West Grand has been facing. “That’s not much of an exaggeration. There are no bad teams in our league.”

On Saturday, he commended Hotchkiss for “playing with fire” after getting on a bus at 6 a.m. to travel to Kremmling and Hayden for bringing “a lot of fight” and “refusing to quit” in the matchup. West Grand has been aided playing at home.

“From top to bottom, it’s a tough league,” Mericle said. “You have to be ready every match.”

West Grand junior Audree Miller handles a Hotchkiss serve on Saturday.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

On Saturday, Mericle also praised juniors Maddy Probst, Alex Schake and Audree Miller for their play on the court and their leadership this year. Throughout the season, the trio has been critical to the Mustangs’ success.

“I just really appreciate our three juniors — Maddy, Alex and Audree,” he said. “I think they provide the leadership, that spark. Their job (Saturday) was to keep the energy up. I thought they did that and provided the older leadership that we need on this young team.”

The West Grand volleyball team poses for a quick photo after much of the gym had cleared on Saturday. The team had just beat Hotchkiss in its last regular season game of the year and secured the seventh victory in its last nine games to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Eli Pace / epace@skyhinews.com

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