by Kyle Koso
If you suited up for the Eclipse 18's volleyball squad this past weekend, one thing you couldn’t quarrel with was the concept of playing time.
Between injuries and illness, the roster of the team from Cheyenne was boiled down to the minimum at times during the Mile High Madness tournament, having to go with just six players during Sunday’s run in the Gold bracket. Despite the positional adjustments the athletes had to make and the demands of two matches that went to three sets, the Eclipse stayed cool, had some laughs and punched their way to the finish line, taking first place with a 25-16, 25-15 victory over Momentum 16-2.
With no substitutions available, Eclipse relied on their collective experience to figure it out — most of the players are seniors, playing together for one last hurrah before graduation in May. Steady serving and physical presence were the big keys in the championship match, as Eclipse only trailed for a couple of points, early in Set 2.
“They are all really athletic and play for each other, so they are there to step up if I need them to play another position. When I call out for something (specific), hit it in this area, they try to do it, and that’s the challenge we want to meet,” said Eclipse head coach Patty Walsh. “A lot of these girls didn’t plan on coming out for club, so it’s not like we have big, high hopes. We want to have fun and let them go out and have a blast. We’re right on track.”
Against Momentum, Set 1 saw Eclipse take a quick 7-1 lead fueled by aces from Gracie McGraw, only to see it get tight again at 8-7. The roster responded with kills from Jenna Merritt, a couple aces from Lorali Moody, and a nice kill off a slide play from Kiera Walsh to make it 20-14. A clever dump on a set from Sophia Thomas and a kill by Nadia Farris sealed the deal.
Kiera Walsh (a second-team all-Wyoming high school selection this year) muscled up for big kills and an ace as Eclipse moved ahead 20-12 in Set 2, and Merritt mauled the ball in the final stretches, with three straight kills for the team’s final points of the tourney.
“Our team is very versatile and good at moving into different positions if we need to, and just getting stuff done,” Merritt said. “When you have a great team, it makes it a lot easier to see the whole court and understand where to go. We have some kinks to work out, some coverage stuff, but for the most part we feel pretty strong as a team.”
To get to the final, Eclipse won three-setters versus Believe 17’s and Momentum 17-2.
“We had a libero playing front row, and she’s not very big, but having her help block was big help for the team. We’ve all just bonded well,” added Kiera Walsh, who grew five inches just before her freshman year and decided to give volleyball a try — she’ll play collegiately at South Dakota School of Mines. “We go into every tournament expecting people to fight for what we want, and that’s to win at the end.”
The Pikes Peak Bracket was won by Core Values 17’s; the Longs Peak bracket champions was Spikes 14, and the Horsetooth division winner was Fundamentals 16’s. The next event for the Colorado Tournament Series will be the President’s Day Summit, Feb. 19-21.
by Kyle Koso
Having just entered their teen years, players on the WyoCity Crushers 14 Blue volleyball team know there are many matches to come, and a million swings left to take.
However, that’s no reason to stand around and let opportunities go unexplored.
The Crushers (Casper, WY) approached Saturday’s action at the Triple Crown Mile High Madness tournament with an aggressive mindset, typically taking on older teams and showing plenty of fight despite any shortages in experience or physical size. They posted three wins on the day, the last one a resounding 25-14, 25-13 victory over ClubOne 16-2 to set the table for a Sunday run in the Division 2 Pikes Peak bracket.
Other results for the Crushers on Saturday included a 25-7, 25-14 win over NORCO 13-2 and 25-14, 25-18 over ClubOne 15.
In the day’s finale, the Crushers muscled up in multiple positions, with Makieha Humphreys and Presley Pruitt swinging hard and with accuracy. Soryn Gold mixed in an ace and multiple kills along the way in a show of the roster’s depth, and Noa Hodgin also impressed, especially with a perfectly placed kill at the end of Set 2.
“We are very pleased. We are working hard, and there’s accountability here. They talk, communicate and never will give up,” said Crushers coach Anthony Gold. “Some of the aggressiveness is natural, and with that is, I want them to swing hard. When you get a good set, a kill is what you need to have, and if there’s a dig on it I tell them to switch it up, with a tip or to push it one side or the other. This is a good bunch of girls.”
Applying steady pressure worked great for the Crushers; ClubOne would try to bang their way back into the mix, but too many hitting errors made it impossible. The Crushers close the first set with a 10-2 run, and did the same in Set 2 with a burst of 11-3.
“It’s so great to be playing older teams and to be doing it at this level; it can be intimidating because we are a really short team,” Humphreys said. “If I see a block at the net, I try to swing through their hands, and just try to rip it through on a normal hit.”
“Whenever I get a good set and opportunity, I just go for it,” Pruitt added. “I do my best, try to hit it as well as I can. Before the match I was a little worried about playing a 16’s team, but in the match I see that we can do this. I like the chemistry we have, how we play together and get ourselves back up if we’re down.”
Defensively, the Crushers had solid moments as well, keeping plays alive and doing the hard work of getting back in system, when they could again let their offensive weapons get loose.
“Our (runs) feel good, but that can make you nervous, too, because volleyball can be anyone’s game on any day,” coach Gold said. “You have to keep working until it’s over, and then you can celebrate.”