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Jays, ’Cats seek benefits from latest battle

SJBLers vie for West Grand tourney title in rematch
Ignacio freshman Kelly Sirios sets senior Solymar Cosio during the Volleycats' pool-play finale versus Black Hawk-based Gilpin County on Saturday at the West Grand Invitational up in Kremmling. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

Did Mancos’ Jays really need extra motivation to prepare for Montezuma County rival Dolores’ visit on Thursday?

Regardless of the outcome, no.

But that’s what Brianna Yeomans-Allison’s crew gained via a whale of a rematch against fellow SJBL contenders Ignacio this past Saturday, with the two-day West Grand Invitational’s top prize at stake.

“You know, I think we were kind of expecting it,” MHS’ head coach said, prior to departing to distant Kremmling. “But they challenge us all the time and so it’s good for our young players to see that, and learn how to battle and fight through adversity.”

“Two San Juan Basin teams in the championship? It was pretty exciting,” said senior Teya Yeomans. “I think that kind of shows … the San Juan Basin’s (one of) the best leagues.”

Having swept the event-hosting Mustangs (25-13, 25-12, 26-24), Peyton (25-14, 25-21, 27-25) and Sanford (25-13, 28-26, 25-19) to reach the finale, Mancos managed to outlast the Volleycats 25-20, 28-30, 26-24, 25-20 in a thrilling clash which sadly more fans from the southwest didn’t get to witness.

Mancos sophomore Aysia Mathews looks to dump a set as Ignacio's Ollyvia Howe observes during the teams' battle this past Saturday for first place at the West Grand Invitational up in Kremmling. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

“We knew we were going to match up with them,” said IHS head coach Jennifer Seibel. “And it was a nail-biter! Oh my goodness!”

“We were in different pools … but played for the championship,” IHS senior Maci Barnes said. “It was really intense.”

Yeomans smashed a reported 22 kills in the victory, lifting the Jays – who rose to No. 2 in the MaxPreps rankings for Class 2A, and to No. 9 out of all classes – to 7-0 overall (2-0 SJBL). Sophomore Claire Goodwin downed nine kills, while senior Haylie Higgins and freshman Bailey Beh each landed seven.

“Haylie’s a key piece of our offense. We’re really relying on her a lot – everybody, really – but when she’s engaged we’re unstoppable, in my opinion,” Yeomans-Allison said. “We have her and Teya opposite one another and … we need them both playing their parts in order for us to be successful.”

“We also got a lot from Claire; she’s a competitor and she’s going to go wherever we need her to,” she continued. “At the beginning we used her as our second setter when we were running a 6-2, but things weren’t going quite the way we wanted.”

“Teya and Claire are amazing, ready at all times, but it’s nice being always able to rely on everyone,” said MHS’ primary setter, sophomore Aysia Mathews (36 assists) “Our outsides, middles, right-sides, back row – they can put the ball anywhere.”

Returning to the Pine River Valley standing No. 9 in 2A according to MaxPreps–Ignacio (5-2, 0-1 SJBL) will next compete on Saturday at the Denver Christian Invitational still plenty energized over having swept Fairplay-based South Park (25-10, 25-9, 25-15), Cedaredge (25-11, 25-23, 25-16) and Black Hawk-based Gilpin County (25-12, 25-14, 25-19) at WGHS.

“The difference between Saturday and last Tuesday was our mindset out of our comfort zone,” Seibel said, alluding to an Aug. 29 home loss to Mancos. “I’m trying to work with the girls to make them feel comfortable when they’re not in their element.”

“We’d had a really good week of practice, and so … I think we did a lot better,” she continued. “They’re just a great team, and our goal was just to take a set or two off them. We didn’t have those first-game jitters that we’d had, and we were in a neutral spot so it kind of had that sense of no one having the upper hand, you know?”

“I think we did better than our last (Mancos) match; I think we really improved,” IHS senior Darlyn Mendoza-Lechuga said. “Now we just have to keep practicing and keep going as a whole.”

At the DC Invite in Lakewood, the ’Cats will first face the hosting Thunder at 10:30 a.m.

West Grand Invitational

First-place match – Mancos def. Ignacio 3-1; Third-place match – Sanford def. Cedaredge 3-1; Fifth-place match – Gilpin County def. Peyton 3-1; Seventh-place match – West Grand def. South Park 3-0.

Ignacio senior Kacey Brown leaps to block Mancos' Claire Goodwin during the teams' showdown in the first-place match at the West Grand Invitational Saturday in Kremmling. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)
The Mancos Jays remained unbeaten in the 2023 season after outlasting Ignacio 3 games to 1 in the West Grand Invitational's championship match on Saturday in Kremmling. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)