Demons take aim with all weapons

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Durango High School head coach Robin Oliger got an all-around effort Friday night from her volleyball team. With Fruita Monument focusing its block on all-star hitter McKenna Franzen, the rest of the team stepped up to lead the Demons to a straight-sets victory in their Southwestern League opener.

By Jim Sojourner Herald staff writer

Fruita Monument’s volleyball team tried to smother Durango’s rocket launcher Friday night.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Demons had a whole other platoon of weapons trained and ready to fire on the court.

Durango power hitter McKenna Franzen struggled to blast balls past a big Wildcat block for two games in the Durango High School gymnasium, but it didn’t much matter as the Demons turned to Jessie Brammer and Hannah Quick to hit their targets instead.

Durango’s all-out offensive hammered a resilient Wildcats squad for a straight-sets victory Friday night in its home opener – 25-17, 25-23, 25-18.

“Everything just worked so well with our team,” setter Natalie Bulen said. “Our passes were on, our sets were on, and our hitters were just killing the ball.”

Brammer and Quick took on the brunt of the work in Games 1 and 2 as the Wildcats keyed on Franzen, double-teaming Franzen’s spikes and pushing them back in her face all too often for the Demons’ liking.

“We got stuffed a lot (Friday),” said Franzen, daughter of Gary and Regina Franzen. “It was kind of surprising ... I was getting frustrated.”

So Bulen changed tactics: Instead of setting to the outside hitters, she shifted to the back, and Quick stepped up to the net.

“And I loved it,” Quick said.

After a fairly balanced Game 1, where the Demons took a three-point lead to start and held on until Quick put down the final kill, the Wildcats picked up their energy in Game 2.

The Durango defenders struggled to come up with blocks because of high and slow sets that Franzen said required some timing adjustments, and Fruita Monument rallied from six points down to tie the game at 18-18.

From there, the teams traded points until at 22-all – with the Wildcat defenders still keying on Franzen – Bulen set up Quick with a pretty set, and the senior hitter followed through for a 23-22 lead.

“She seemed to have all the confidence in the world (Friday),” said Demons’ assistant coach Colleen Keresey, noting that Quick even scored some kills with her left hand.

Two points later, Quick won her second game.

“I’d like to think so,” said Quick, daughter of Lori and Mark Quick. But “the passers did such a great job getting it to Natalie so she fed it perfectly.”

Bulen had 66 assists in Friday night’s victory.

And with the Wildcats’ defense flustered by Durango’s all-around attack, Franzen then started launching rockets. The senior hitter smacked two of the Demons’ first three points before going on to score about half of her 16 kills in the final game, as the Demons pulled ahead early and kept on rolling.

One of the keys, she said, was “tooling” off the blockers’ hands with shots that sailed out of bounds after being tipped – something Franzen said the Demons practiced all week.

Brammer added 12 more kills for Durango across the three games, and Quick had 10.

“Our team is just so equally balanced it doesn’t matter if I set it to the outside ... or middle,” said Bulen, daughter of David and Janine Bulen. “All of our hitters are really strong.”

“It’s one of those things where every hitter on the team has something to contribute,” said Franzen, stressing her team’s unpredictable nature.

Strong defensive play also was critical in maintaining their leads and scraping through the scrappy second game, Keresey said.

Gaby Razma led the team with 19 digs, and if Franzen struggled on offense Friday, she did plenty of sliding around on the hardwood to make up for it.

“If she isn’t having her best offensive game, she has her best defensive game,” Keresey said.

DHS (5-4, 1-0 SWL) will host Grand Junction at 11:30 a.m. today at Durango High School.

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