Durango volleyball: Rise and shine

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald

Durango libero Kennedy Clark led the team with 12 digs as the Demons rolled past Grand Junction 3-0 on Saturday at DHS. The Demons’ service game was on point Saturday, tallying seven service aces and rattling the Tigers into several errors.

By Ryan Owens Herald staff writer

Durango ate its Wheaties before Saturday’s volleyball match.

Grand Junction, meanwhile, could’ve used some NoDoz.

The Durango High School service game helped cause a flood of Tigers’ attack errors, and the Demons rolled to a 3-0 victory over Grand Junction on Saturday at DHS.

The Demons picked up wins of 25-17, 25-9, 25-13 thanks in large part to near-pinpoint service accuracy. Their ability to move the ball around from the service line appeared to fluster the Grand Junction offense, leading to several free balls and even more attack errors as the Tigers often had to scramble to set up their attack.

Grand Junction finished Saturday’s match with 28 attack errors, unofficially, and Durango (7-4, 2-0 Southwestern League) had seven service aces, with Mikayla Montoya and Gaby Razma tallying two apiece.

“We always tell them, ‘If you guys can serve the ball aggressively and pass the ball well ... then we’re going to win games,’” DHS assistant coach Colleen Keresey said. “So it’s nice to finally see a team rattled from our aggressive serves.”

Junior middle hitter Bella Bernazzani said Durango’s ability to hop on teams early in the SWL’s typical Saturday-morning matches adversely can affect the psyche of tired teams.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt matters that DHS has romped through the SWL in the last couple of years en route to two consecutive league titles. The Demons have won 14 consecutive conference matches, dating back to a 3-2 loss to Grand Junction Central on Oct. 16, 2010.

“It helps a lot. As long as we set a quick pace at the very beginning, we can usually keep it going,” Bernazzani said.

Bernazzani had eight kills for DHS, which utilized both middle hitters – the other being Berkeley Davis – with sets either to the middle of the floor or by looping the middles around on the wing for back sets from Natalie Bulen, who had 32 assists.

A strong performance from the middle opened things up on the outside for more solo opportunities for McKenna Franzen, who will see a sea of double blocks this year. Franzen had a team-high 12 kills, while three other outside hitters – Emily McCue, Hannah Quick and Jessie Brammer – registered kills on the stat sheet.

“As long as we keep it switched up in the middle ... then it really throws the opposite blockers off as long as Natalie’s calling the right plays, and she’s usually good at seeing what’s across the net,” said Bernazzani, daughter of John and Robin Bernazzani.

Keresey said what sets Durango’s middles apart is their physical abilities, not to mention size. Davis is 6-feet tall, while Bernazzani’s 5-10.

“We have probably the two most athletic middles in the league. Berkeley can hit anywhere; Bella can hit anywhere,” Keresey said.

The Demons opened the match with a late run to keep the Tigers at bay. Leading 15-13, DHS rattled off 10 of the next 14 points to grab the first set and build good vibes in the gym, which the Fort Lewis College volleyball team furthered with an impromptu dance routine between sets. (FLC sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wells was a member of Central’s team that handed DHS its last SWL loss.)

The Tigers never were in the second set as DHS ran out to an early 9-3 lead and led by as many as 16 before a Brammer kill capped the set. Durango then ran out to a 17-8 lead in the final set before Davis’ block emphatically capped a dominant performance.

Kennedy Clark had 12 digs to lead Durango’s defensive effort.

Durango will return to the court at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Montezuma-Cortez.

rowens@durangoherald.com

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