Bulldogs stifle Hayden Tigers comeback bid
Hayden — Hayden volleyball coach Dayna Hunter stood outside the Tigers locker room Tuesday evening hugging each of her players as they paraded past following a four-game loss to Hotchkiss in the opening round of the district playoffs.
Hotchkiss outplayed the Tigers in the first two games, winning 25-20 and 25-19, before Hayden came to life in the third to pull back into the match with a 25-9 win. But the comeback was short-lived as the Bulldogs took control of the fourth and final game early, then rolled to a 25-14 victory to take the match.
This moment outside the locker room was something Hunter had hoped to put off a few more games, a few more days and if possible, a couple more weeks. It’s the moment players and coaches dread, but a moment every team must face — even the eventual state champion.
Hotchkiss escaped that moment Tuesday, postponing it for another day down the road, but for the teary-eyed Tigers, that moment had arrived.
“Probably both,” Hunter said when asked whether losing the match to Hotchkiss or coming to terms with the idea the season was the more difficult to take. “We just had a hard time keeping our momentum together to the point that we could fire through that fourth set and possibly a fifth.”
But the Tigers couldn’t seem to find what they needed to rebound from big early deficits in the opening two games.
Hotchkiss took the lead in those games behind freshman Carson Collins, who had nine kills in the march, and senior Gratia Fisher, who finished with eight. The Bulldogs’ two setters, Sophia Fisher and Carlee Edwards, mixed the attack up all night, and both players finished with 11 assists each.
Hayden did show signs of life in the third set, however. The home team jumped out to a big lead in that game and then rolled to a commanding 25-9 victory, sparked by an outstanding performance at the service line by Grace Wilkie, who had a 90 percent serving average. The team was led in kills by Darian Murphy and passing by Jessika Hockett.
“When we have our intensity, we play amazing,” senior Kenzie Fry said. “We just couldn’t keep our intensity, and I’m not really sure why … It’s really heartbreaking.”
Fry said despite the Tigers’ up-and-down season, she couldn’t help but feel good about her season and team.
“We have an awesome family,” Fry said. “We learned a lot about each other and about life this season, and that was really awesome. It wasn’t a great season for us, but I’m going to take away all the times we played great. Because when we did, we were awesome.”
Tuesday marked the end of the road for the Hayden team, but Hotchkiss will be looking to play another day as they prepare to advance in the 2A district playoffs this weekend in Grand Valley (Parachute).
“That third game has been our downfall all season,” Hotchkiss coach Tera Lee Williams said. “We are going to have to be better if we hope to win. We are young, but our players have worked very hard. Putting the ball away and being consistent will be the key to having success this weekend.”
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