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Durango volleyball loses nail-biter to Montrose

MHS wins the match in five sets
Eva Stewart of Durango High School digs the ball while playing Montrose High School on Friday at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Durango High School and Montrose volleyball team went back and forth, back and forth on Friday with both teams making some big plays. Montrose, however, escaped with the win in five sets 3-2.

“We’re a work in progress,” said Durango head coach Kelley Rifilato. “We still have a lot of matches ahead of us, but if we can continue to get better every match, every set and every practice, we’ll be good.”

Durango won the first set 25-20.

The Durango High School volleyball team cheers on some good times while playing Montrose High School on Friday at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

MHS had a 14-12 lead, but Eva Stewart helped Durango take the lead while serving, getting an ace and then a kill from Sarah Somrak to take a 16-14 lead.

Montrose took the lead again, 18-17, but DHS got four consecutive kills, from Mason Rowland, Leah Wolf, Riley Engle and Aava Dreger, to take a 21-18 lead and eventually finish on top.

In the second set, DHS started slow and trailed 13-1. The Demons fought back to make it close, but eventually lost the set 25-19.

In the third set, neither team led by more than two points.

Somrak and Rowland both had a pair of late kills, helping DHS take a 24-23 lead. Montrose, however, won the set on a kill that hit the top of the net and rolled over.

In game 4, DHS made play after play to score a 25-19 win.

Somrak and Dreger both blocked shots.

“That’s one of our strengths,” Rifilato said, noting that DHS had 10 block assists and six solo blocks in the game. “The nice thing is we have size to be able to challenge teams at the net.”

Aava Dreger, left, and Riley Engle of Durango High School go up and block a Montrose High School kill attempt on Friday at DHS. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Rowland got a kill in the far corner to give DHS an early lead. Later, Rowland served an ace, made two diving digs on one play that set up Engle for a kill and then found a hole for a sneaky kill of her own. Wolf eventually brought the hammer, spiking a ball that ricocheted into the bleachers to seal the win.

In the fifth set, Brooklyn Messier helped DHS take a 4-2 lead with an ace. Montrose, however, scored five of the next six points and never trailed again. An Engle ace and kills from Stewart and Somrak kept DHS in it, but MHS eventually won the set, 15-12, to take the match.

“Montrose is a really good team and we hung with them,” Rifilato said. “I’m looking forward to the next time we get to play them.“

Rowland led DHS with 12 kills and also had 22 digs. Somrak had 10 kills. “Everything we worked on in practice, she did,” Rifilato said. “I’m so proud of her shot selections.”

Engle had nine kills. Messier had 21 digs.

Stewart, who is a freshman, had 25 service attempts and only made one error. “She was so composed,” Rifilato said. “Her serving was fantastic, especially in stretches when we needed it.”

The coach also gave Naomi Rowe kudos. “She did a fantastic job stepping up and being a utility person,” Rifilato said.

DHS slipped to 3-4 overall and 2-1 in the 5A/4A Southwestern League with the loss. Montrose improved to 10-2, 4-0.

Durango will be back on its home court today. The Demons will host Fruita Monument (8-2, 2-0) at noon.

“I would be bummed out if this is our peak; we’re still on the up slope of the mountain,” Rifilato said. “Every week, we’ve gotten better.”