Cowboys play spoiler |

Cowboys play spoiler

Melinda Mawdsley

— Plateau Valley spoiled Soroco’s homecoming, but the Cowboys, who are in the midst of a memorable season, weren’t about to apologize.

“We’ve been on the upswing,” Plateau Valley coach Toni Gunther said. “We’ve won four matches in a row.”

In Gunther’s previous five years, Plateau Valley (7-6 overall) has not had a winning record at this point in the season, nor has it had a four-match winning streak. Gunther credits her assistants and players for the makeover.

“Kids are staying in the program,” Gunther said. “We finally have a few upperclassmen. It’s been fun to watch the last few games. We keep getting better.”

On Saturday, Plateau Valley needed everything it had to hold off Soroco in the first two games before winning, 25-23, 29-27, 25-12.

The loss drops the Rams to 3-10 overall. They also lost to North Park on Friday, but coach Betsy Photos changed the defense, giving Soroco’s players something volleyball-related to focus on during what can be a very distracting homecoming week.

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“We were pleased to see the improvement, especially with a new defense,” Photos said about the North Park loss.

The new defense enables Soroco’s defenders to take away the line shots while leaving one blocker at the net. Rams middle blocker Amanda Wilson had four solo blocks in the first game, but the Rams came up just short.

The second game was the most entertaining of the night. The Rams built an 8-3 lead, but the Cowboys rallied to tie the game at 9-9. The teams exchanged the lead four more times before finding themselves even at 20-20.

Soroco senior Vanessa Eaton caught Plateau Valley off guard with her quick attack without a set. Another error from the Cowboys gave the Rams a 23-20 lead, prompting Gunther to call a timeout.

Sophomore Mikal Achtner, a junior varsity player promoted several weeks ago, served her fourth-straight point, giving the Rams game point at 24-20. She missed her serve, sending the ball back to Plateau Valley. Soroco still had three chances to close out the game, but two timely aces from Jami Smith helped tie things up at 24-24.

Each team fought off the other’s game point before Plateau Valley finally got the 2-point advantage it needed to win on Mikala Mumby’s kill and subsequent serve.

“They had some vicious serves,” Photos said. “That was the most vicious part –r the most effective part — of their game.”

The emotion Soroco fed off of in the first two games was visibly absent in the third, which is common when a team drops a close game. The Rams were close at 12-12, but the Cowboys reeled off 13 straight points with Lacey Bouton behind the service line to win.

“Things were not going our way in that third game,” Photos said. “They were swiping it off our block. That was very effective on their part.”

The Rams and Cowboys have made noticeable improvements compared to recent years, and each coach complimented the other after the match.

“We’ve been emphasizing discipline,” Photos said. “The level of competitiveness has increased on our team.”

An indicator of that was Friday night, when the Rams played with perennial league power North Park.

Soroco had 12 aces, including eight from Wilson, who also led the team with eight kills.

“Amanda had a great match,” Photos said.

Senior Kyla Schmidt contributed five kills in the loss. Junior Emily Strait added four. Soroco’s offense wasn’t as strong Saturday night. Strait led the way with three kills, and Eaton and sophomore Glenda Long each had two kills.

Up next for Soroco is a 6 p.m. match Tuesday against West Grand in Kremmling.