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Ignacio beats Meeker at state

6 a.m. practices pay off in 8 a.m. opener
Ignacio's Solymar Cosio (20) puts a two-handed tip shot away from Meeker's Rylee Sullivan (14) during day one action at the 2023 CHSAA Class 2A State Volleyball Championships inside the Denver Coliseum. Courtesy Joel Priest

DENVER – Baffling Meeker not once but twice, and essentially stealing a 2-0 set lead in the 2023 CHSAA Class 2A State Volleyball Championships’ opening match Thursday morning, Ignacio’s Volleycats quickly knocked MHS junior Graycee Cravens off serve to start set three and never looked back. Ignacio beat Meeker in three straight sets, 25-23, 25-23, 25-18.

“We were down by (big) margins and we just fought back,” said IHS head coach Jennifer Seibel. “I’ve told the girls since regionals, that up here it’s about your heart. If you want it, go take it! But you’ve got to fight for it; use our skills that we’ve got – our scrappiness, our smarts – and just play tenaciously. That’s what got us here … and that’s our game plan thus far!”

Further adding to their legacy by logging a 20th match win overall (against just six losses), the ’Cats advanced to challenge top-seeded Wiggins (21-4) in the scheduled 2 p.m. showdown. Meeker (16-10) was to next see action on Day 2 at 11 a.m.

Making program history inside the Denver Coliseum, IHS had first erased a 13-7 deficit in Game 1 and snatched a 25-23 win via a kill by junior Ollyvia Howe off MHS senior Celine Lozano. Having staved off game point twice before conceding, the Cowgirls again proved their readiness and built up a 12-6 lead in Game 2.

But again, the ’Cats seemed to be playing possum; led by a five-point Howe stay on serve, eighth-seeded Ignacio rallied to tie at 12-12, and soon took short-lived leads of 14-13 and 16-15 before No. 9 Meeker doubled down and forged ahead, 20-17. Beginning with a Howe scoring tip and a kill by senior Solymar Cosio, IHS responded and soon forced MHS head coach Greg Cravens into using a timeout with the teams suddenly deadlocked at 22-all.

Keeping senior Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga on serve, senior Kacey Brown downed a go-ahead kill and Mendoza-Lechuga followed with a morale-crushing ace of junior libero Taylor Garcia. Meeker avoided defeat once, but Brown secured the contest’s second stanza with a well-placed, deep-corner roll shot Cowgirl senior Ainsley Selle couldn’t save, even with a valiant dive.

“It was more of a shock when it went into the third,” Howe said, about the Volleycats’ demeanor over knowing MHS had to take three straight games to deny Ignacio Volleyball its first state championship victory in decades. “It was surprising.”

Howe put down a kill, taking the serve away from Cravens, and Mendoza-Lechuga followed with an ace to get IHS off and running with a sweep in sight. And after Cosio cracked a kill off MHS senior Jayda May and Selle netted an attack, increasing Ignacio’s advantage to 7-3, the Cowgirls got no closer the rest of the way than 10-9, via a line tip by sophomore Rylee Sullivan.

IHS then scored to get Howe on serve, and she proceeded to remain at the line until the ’Cats had rebuilt their advantage back up to 15-9, despite a Cravens timeout. He’d burn his second – and last – with Ignacio ahead 19-12, and Seibel’s squad would reach match point, 24-17, via junior Marissa Olguin’s roll shot into a soft Meeker middle.

An Ignacio net violation then gave MHS one last point and chance to mount a miraculous comeback. Olguin countered by attempting a placement shot similar to her previous one, and though the Cowgirls managed to keep the ball off the floor, Selle was put into a bad position to attack and thus netted the match’s final swing.

“I’m so happy for us,” said Howe. “Our 6 a.m. practices really helped a lot with the 8 a.m. game, and yeah, I’m really hyped up right now! It’s hard to put into words.”

“Three of our league teams all have regional titles: Mancos, Dove Creek and us,” Seibel stated. “I feel we don’t get a ton of credit from Denver-area schools; we battle … each other and that just helps us prepare for games like this where, when we’re down, we’re going to claw our way back.”