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Pontines pair up in 2A all-state volleyball match

Ignacio's Alexis Pontine, right, and Meeker's Tatumn Kennedy happily prepare for the next point during the CCGS All-State Games' Class 2A Volleyball game on Sunday at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)
Alexis and Shasta Pontine play and coach; Dolores also represented

FORT COLLINS – When Alexis Pontine tossed up the first serve of the Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports All-State Games’ Class 2A Volleyball showcase match on Sunday, the fact it didn’t produce a point wasn’t important.

What was, was the fact Ignacio’s senior co-captain had prolonged her fall season long enough to be able to show off the wicked jump-serve feared by 2A/1A San Juan Basin Leaguers. Because for much of the Volleycats’ inspired run to the CHSAA State Championships, it had been altered to more of a hop-serve.

SJBL opponents might not have been able to tell something was off. Pontine, meanwhile, knew.

“When we went to Dove Creek, I had this big mass come up behind my knee,” she recalled at the CCGS site, Fossil Ridge High School. “And it started bruising, was really painful; the whole back of my knee was, like, black – it was really gross. An ultrasound showed the mass, but when I got my MRI done it was gone … because it had popped.”

“They thought it was some kind of cyst … and it popped. So, yeah, it’d been better.”

Ignacio's Alexis Pontine sets up an attack during the All-State Games Class 2A Volleyball feature Sunday in Fort Collins. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)
Ignacio coach Shasta Pontine, left, and Dolores coach Gina Hollen share a laugh during a timeout, with IHS' Alexis Pontine caught in the middle. The San Juan Basin Leaguers were all CCGS All-State Volleyball selections, and all named to the Class 2A-Red team. (Joel Priest/Special to the Herald)

But certainly not as strong as the joint appeared in Colorado Springs for the state tournament and then nine days later up in Larimer County – where her first two aces not only embarrassed 2A-Blue, but gave 2A-Red their first leads in the best-of-three match, though all three games were guaranteed, at 13-12 and 14-12.

Unfortunately, Red – coached by IHS’ Shasta Pontine and SJBL rival Dolores’ Gina Hollen – would lose a hard-fought opening stanza 27-25, via a successful set dump by Wiggins’ Rachael White and then a tip by Holyoke’s Kristin Vieselmeyer.

And though Red would bounce back in Game 2, taking a quick 4-3 lead via a kill by Limon’s Trista Marx, the one-off squad would eventually fall behind 2 games to 0 in the contest. Alison Woodhams of freshly minted State Champion Sedgwick County spiked a White set to bring up game point at 24-20, and after Blue’s Tabor Flanagan (Greeley Dayspring Christian) managed to dig a Pontine nail, White placed another set dump into a vacated corner.

“I thought it was really fun – especially playing with new people you’ve never played with, or you’ve always played against,” said Woodhams, who attends Ovid Revere – which combines talents with Julesburg to form the formidable Sedgwick County co-op, known mostly in recent years for eight-man football dominance. “So it was a pretty cool experience to play with those girls.”

“Just playing with people who love the sport as much as you do … it’s just an amazing feeling,” Pontine said, “and I’m super-honored to be picked to play in the all-state game.”

Game 3 again saw Blue dash out to a 4-0 lead before Red – minus Dolores’ Erin Brown, who was on the bench but unable to play due to a booted lower left leg – powered ahead to take a 14-12 lead on back-to-back kills by Fowler’s Emily Flanscha. That advantage would steadily grow to as great as 23-17 after Blue setter – and Dolores Lady Bea – Kamri Willbanks surrendered a point via a shaky set, and White then sent a swing wide.

Dolores' Erin Brown applauds her 2A-Red teammates' effort during action against Blue in the Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Games' Class 2A Volleyball feature Sunday in Fort Collins. Because of a left-leg injury, Brown was unable to play.

Beginning with a Woodhams kill, Blue began pecking away as Red began pressing, each one of its seniors hoping to taste even a partial victory one last time. Pontine was no exception, but was substituted out in favor of Oak Creek Soroco’s Peyton Parker after a third failed attack – coupled with two other Red errors – allowed Blue to pull even at 23.

Sargent’s Gabby Jones then hit out of bounds, giving Red one chance at claiming the game up 24-23, but consecutive Woodhams put-aways regained Blue the momentum – ultimately producing a 26-25 lead via a Jones kill, and then a 27-25 sweep-clinching win when Red setter Morgan Elarton (Rye) accidentally netted a pass.

“It being such a close and competitive game was great; going past 25 … in two sets was super-cool,” Pontine said. “I feel it would be a lot more (fun) if Erin was playing – I wish we could get more girls from our league up here – but I feel like we (Southwesterners) represented pretty good. It was fun, you know, playing your last high-school game with people like that.”