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.”
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.
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.”