WG narrowly miss regional berth | SkyHiNews.com

WG narrowly miss regional berth

Larry Banman
Sky-Hi Daily News
Kremmling, CO Colorado

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

The West Grand Mustang volleyball team came within two points of advancing to the regional tournament and putting the capstone on an incredible weekend of volleyball action at the district tournament in Meeker.

Entering the tournament as the fifth-seed in the nine-team district, the Lady Mustangs defeated league champion Vail Christian to emerge from its pool as the top seed. A hard-fought game in the championship round against Rangely, however, ended in a five-game defeat.

“As a coach you hope to peak during post-season play,” head coach Susan Billington said. ” I feel we were reaching that peak. We were not predicted to get past Friday’s pool play and, not only did we come out as the first seed, we put ourselves in a great position to fight for the championship game.”

Pool play started early on Friday morning with a game against Vail Mountain, the team against whom West Grand had finished the regular season. The Mustangs played a close match, but ended up losing, 25-13, 25-19, 25-25, 25-12, 15-7.

“We had a slow start in this match and just didn’t play consistently throughout the match,” Billington said. ” We hung in there and played competitively.”

Brook Cecil and Melissa Kraker led the team in kills with 13 and 10, respectively. Cecil also led the team in blocks with three while Brenda Heid, Laura Billington and Kraker all added two blocks. Coach Billington noted that Destry Heide had an outstanding match and had 25 digs.

The loss put West Grand in poor position to come out of pool play, particularly because they were facing league champion Vail Christian.

The Mustangs responded with what Coach Billington called, “the match of the year for us.” West Grand dropped the first game 29-27 and then responded with a dominating performance over the next three games, winning 25-16, 25-21, 25-14.

“Brook [Cecil] played off the charts all around,” Coach Billington said. “Melissa [Kraker] was a force at the net and Destry [Heide], Brenda [Heid], Alyse [Billington] and Laura [Billington] collectively added another 16 kills. Taylor [Pesch] had an awesome serve-receive match with a score of 2.3 for the match.”

(Billington has a three-point system for scoring serve receives. A three-pass is perfect, allowing the setter three options and a two-pass allows the setter two different options).

Cecil led the team in kills with 19 and an incredible 33 digs on defense. Kraker had nine blocks and shared the team lead in blocks with Cecil as both had two rejections. Cecil and Heide added three aces apiece from the serving line.

“We had great play off the bench,” Billington said. “Sierra [Malonson], Katie [Sanford] and Chyenne [Sims] all passed well and played great defense. Jessica [Raecke] came back from her ankle injury and was a key server for us the entire weekend. She was responsible for taking Vail Christian out of their offense and allowing us to attack off of free balls being sent over the net.

“Alyse [Billington] worked hard to get our hitters set up and made great choices in her sets depending on the blockers on the other side of the net. She has great court awareness and finds weaknesses at the net,” Coach Billington added.

West Grand rode the momentum of that match and easily defeated Hayden, 25-21, 25-17, 25-18. Cecil led the team in kills with 14 while Kraker had 11 kills. Kraker had three blocks to lead the team in that category and Heid had 19 digs to lead in that defensive statistic. Cecil, with five, and Raecke, with four, led the team in service aces.

“It was nice to see the girls take care of business and win this game in three sets,” Coach Billington said. “Since there was a three-way tie between us, Vail Christian and Vail Mountain, we came out of pool as the first seed, based on game-win percentage. It was a great day and I was very, very proud of all the players.”

The Mustangs played hard in their championship match against Rangely, but came up just short as the Panthers won, 25-17, 17-25, 25-27, 25-16, 19-17.

Kraker and Cecil led the team in kills with 13 apiece while Kraker had a season-high five blocks at the net. Heid had 25 digs to lead the team in that category and she also had a great serve-receive match as she passed 34 serves and earned a 2.2 average on those passes.

Raecke had five service aces in this match. Coach Billington said that her serves in the fifth game brought the Mustangs back from a seven-point deficit to almost take the match.

“This was a tough loss for the entire team and coaching staff,” Coach Billington said. “The girls put everything they had into this tournament and held nothing back. Unfortunately we came up just short of reaching that team goal. Overall, it was a great season for the Mustangs. All three teams were successful and we are excited about the talent we have on this team.”