November means playoffs at Durango

DHS volleyball will host regionals for the 3rd year in a row

Durango High School head coach Robin Oliger will lead her volleyball team in the winner-take-all CHSAA Class 4A, Region 8 Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at DHS. If the eighth-seeded Demons protect their home court against No. 17 Pueblo West and No. 29 Delta, then they’ll return to the Denver Coliseum for the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Volleyball State Championships. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Durango High School head coach Robin Oliger will lead her volleyball team in the winner-take-all CHSAA Class 4A, Region 8 Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at DHS. If the eighth-seeded Demons protect their home court against No. 17 Pueblo West and No. 29 Delta, then they’ll return to the Denver Coliseum for the CHSAA Class 4A Girls Volleyball State Championships.

It’s early November, so if recent history tells us anything, the Durango High School volleyball team will be playing postseason matches in the friendly confines of its own gymnasium.

The Class 4A regional schedule released Monday confirmed that, yes, DHS will play all of its nonstate tournament level matches at home as the No. 8 seed, hosting No. 17 Pueblo West and No. 29 Delta. The tournament will tip at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Demons (15-8) hosted districts and regionals each of the last two seasons under the recently scrapped playoff format. This year, there are 12 regionals with three teams each, with the winner heading to next weekend’s state tournament at the Denver Coliseum.

The streak of home postseason matches is a point of pride for these current Demons.

“Making regionals three years in a row, and districts since it’s kind of both of them at the same time, is a huge deal in the first place.” junior outside hitter Jessie Brammer said. “But it’s such an amazing feeling to be able to host three years in a row. It’s ... something that I feel we have to keep up, like a legacy.”

The new postseason format eliminates a round and makes for a quicker route to the big dance, but it also leaves a much smaller margin for error. Just one slip up could dash state dreams before they even begin to form.

Brammer, however, said that small room for error could add focus to the proceedings.

“I feel like we have to just really monopolize on our opportunities, because we only have two games, and we have to win them,” said Brammer, daughter of Michol and Robert Brammer.

The Demons went and got themselves battle tested last weekend, taking on Class 5A No. 3 seed Chaparral and 4A playoff teams Valor Christian, Windsor and Mesa Ridge, going 1-3 at the Cheyenne Mountain Tournament in Colorado Springs. They also scrimmaged fellow local power Bayfield, seeded third in 3A, on Thursday at DHS.

It gave them a glimpse into where they need to improve as they gun for their first state title since 1997.

“They were just bigger teams. They were faster. It got us back to playing tougher competition to get us ready for this weekend and hopefully farther,” said Berkeley Davis, daughter of Donna and Jim Davis.

Pueblo West and Delta pose challenges of their own. The Pueblo West Cyclones (17-6) are paced by senior outside hitter Taylor Levya, who has 119 kills in 315 attempts.

Pueblo West is no slouch in the middle, either, getting 95 kills out of Sarah Daberkow and 93 from Allegra Shippy.

The Cyclones also boast a solid service attack, averaging 6.5 aces per match.

Delta (12-11) isn’t quite as offensively prolific as Pueblo West, but the Panthers are led by Skylyn Webb’s 84 kills and Natalie Larkin’s 148 digs.

The players aren’t quite sure which, but one of the two boasts a quick attack through the middle, likely Pueblo West given the numbers of its middle hitters.

Whatever the case may be, it’ll be a test for Durango’s Bella Bernazzani and Davis to rein in their counterparts across the net.

“One of the teams have quick middles, so that’s something Berkeley and I have to hop on,” said Bernazzani, daughter of John and Robin Bernazzani, with a laugh. “Lots of pressure.

“It creates a better opportunity for us to play better, because it’ll hopefully bring out the better playing abilities in us.”

“We’ll have to be on our game,” Davis said.

Durango teams always seem to have an eye toward the postseason as they build up regular-season victories, and the Demons haven’t been eliminated before the state tournament since falling in districts in 2009. It brings a certain excitement to the proceedings once the calendar turns to postseason time.

And the Demons can’t wait to get started.

“We’re really excited, especially because we worked so hard for it,” Bernazzani said. “Especially since we get to host again. That makes it so much better.”

rowens@durangoherald.com

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