Steve Lewis/Durango Herald
IGNACIO – The Bobcats made a discovery during their first volleyball match of the season Thursday night.
They discovered they can shrug off pressure, come from behind and beat an opponent they haven’t beaten in more than a decade.
The Ignacio High School volleyball team rallied from two sets down to beat Kirtland Central 3-2 in a dramatic interstate season opener – 22-25, 28-30, 25-19, 25-18, 15-10.
“It was exciting because we haven’t beaten Kirtland in such a long time,” said senior Michelle Simmons, who powered the Ignacio comeback with a match-high 28 kills.
“So beating Kirtland ... it’s just amazing,” she said as a festive, if modest, home crowd celebrated the marathon victory in the steamy IHS gym.
“It’s really exciting to start off the year like this ... to beat a 4A school,” junior setter Cloe Seibel said after the Class 2A Bobcats won their season opener over the 4A Broncos from New Mexico.
But the Bobcats’ first match nearly slipped away when Kirtland Central took the first two sets, overcoming a big Ignacio lead in the second.
With Marley Max, Hannah Washburn and Keeshawna Ockerman attacking at the net, the Broncos rallied from a 21-17 deficit in the second game, outscoring the Bobcats 13-7 down the stretch in the 30-28 victory (taking a 2-0 lead in the match).
Ignacio first-year head coach Thaddeus Cano calmly convened the Bobcats before the third set, delivered the keynote address to the assembled delegates and called for a vote.
The Bobcats voted unanimously to rally, starting with a third-set victory when they never trailed.
With the Broncos threatening to pull even midway through, Ignacio libero Angela Herrera passed to Seibel, who set outside to Simmons, who changed in midleap and crushed a left-handed spike to the floor.
The natural righty had five kills in the 25-19 victory.
Lefty Mariah Vigil also had five kills in the set, and teammate Destinee Lucero had three kills.
Seibel contributed two ace serves.
The Bobcats never trailed in the key fourth set, picking up six more kills from Simmons, three more from Vigil and crucial kills from Cheyenne Cook and freshman Meil Daiz.
Vigil’s kill at game point sent the match to a deciding set: the first to 15 points.
With Seibel spreading the ball to Vigil, Lucero and Simmons, the Bobcats eased away from a 7-7 tie.
Seibel, the daughter of Melanie and Shane Seibel, added three kills of her own, hitting from the left side in the fifth set.
Two aces by Lucero completed the 15-10 win and the 3-2 comeback.
“We just needed to stay positive and believe in ourselves,” Herrera said of the Bobcats’ mindset while trailing 2-0.
“We have to stay on top of our game and ... keep believing,” said Herrera, the daughter of Daphne Washington.
“Angela reads (the floor) exceptionally well,” Cano said of the Ignacio defensive specialist, who had a busy night passing the volleyball.
“She’s right there, for the most part, for all of the plays,” he said.
Cano credited the Bobcats’ focus with the comeback victory.
“We’ve worked hard on fighting through. We’ve worked on the mental game,” he said. “And the girls have been really good about supporting each other on the court ... not getting down.”
He said the Bobcats’ offense is most effective when good passing lets them play at a faster pace.
“When we are in system like that, we are running a very fast offense ... and it’s hard for the middles to get outside (to help on the block),” he said.
The result was a career-high 28 kills for Simmons, a four-year volleyball starter.
“(Seibel) is so consistent,” Simmons said of the Bobcats’ setter. “She gets it up there ... so I can just swing.” the daughter of Kelly Herrera said.
Vigil added 12 kills. Lucero had 10.
The Bobcats will host Aztec on Tuesday in another nonconference match on their home court.