It was a milestone victory and a long time coming as the South Park volleyball team found the upper hand in a home five-set match against the Custer County Bobcats Sept. 8.
Not just another notch in their belts, as South Park moves to a 3-5 overall record, but a landmark stride as the Burros pulled off something over their rival that hasn’t been done since the 2011 season under the leadership of head coach Kim Dufty.
“We are expecting the team to work on individual contributions to our team and understanding that the team needs come first. We want this to be a competitive program where fundamentals are repeated and improved. We want each athlete to be well rounded and learn all the skills in volleyball,” head coach Barb McGraw said.
History had almost begun to repeat itself as the Bobcats slid by the Burros 25-23 in the first set and returned to dominate the court with a 25-14 second-set win. However, the Bobcats were not ready for what the Burros had in store for them as the hosting team banded together in the face of match-point and stole the third set 25-18.
“We want this program to become more competitive and engage more athletes. Striving for honest work ethics, placing team need first, and being coachable are reminders to our athletes that we can build an outstanding program here at South Park,” McGraw said.
With the match sitting at 2-1, the Burros still had more to give, but the Bobcats continued to wage war with 29 match kills.
The Burros remained consistent and drove their opponent to frustration as they shut down Custer’s middle hitter (Kaydin Moore; 11 kills) and outside hitter (Emma Aldrich; eight kills) to move ahead in a 25-23 fourth-set lead.
Tied 2-2 heading into the final set, the Burros controlled the match as they capitalized on Custer’s irritation and forced a match total of 23 digging and 29 attacking errors. Having gained the advantage, the Burros ran off with the fifth set by a score of 15-6.
“The spirit and energy level [of our team] is guided by the leadership of four returning seniors: Emma Braggins, Molly Batts, Morgan Burnett, and Stevi Arellano. These four seniors have not only improved their individual skills, but have risen as true leaders,” McGraw said.
With the win, the Burros take command at the top of the class 2A/1A West Central League standings, owning a 1-0 record.
Below South Park sits the Cotopaxi Pirates with a 1-1 record, and the Custer County Bobcats reside at third with a 0-1 record. The Cripple Creek-Victor Pioneers remain untested within the league at 0-0, but currently hold a 2-6 overall record.
The loss has dropped the Bobcats to holding a 3-1 overall record.
In her second year as head coach, McGraw has joined forces with former South Park head volleyball coach Deb Davis.
“Deb brings a wealth of volleyball experience to our coaching staff. Deb is an excellent coach that lays down the fundamentals of the game, but is also instrumental in raising the expectations of a junior varsity and varsity player,” McGraw said.
The pair of experienced coaches combined from each end of the country bring with them extensive background résumés in the sport as both players and coaches. In addition, the duo shares the same ideas and expectations of what they want to see from their program.
“We expect leadership attributes from each of our athletes. We expect accountability and responsibility from each other and loyalty to our teammates,” McGraw said.
In their debut season together, McGraw and Davis have already increased program numbers to 20 athletes suiting up (split between the junior varsity and varsity squads) for the 2018-2019 season.
“We have every type of volleyball player, where the skill ranges from experienced to never-have-played-before,” McGraw said.
While the program is already showing early signs of building, it has not all been roses and butterflies, as the Burros suffered a recent 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-10) loss to the Rangely Panthers in a neutral non-conference game Sept. 7. The win has pushed the Panthers to holding a 5-2, 1-0 record, having taken losses from Telluride (2-1) and Little Snake River (3-0).
South Park will now test their abilities in an away non-conference match with the Del Norte Tigers Sept. 14, followed by an away non-conference match against the Sanford Indians Sept. 15.
The Tigers will enter the match with a 7-1, 4-0 investment on the season after a recent 3-1 victory over the Indians Sept. 8. The Indians will face the Bobcats prior to challenging the Burros, but currently cling to a 4-3, 1-1 record.