Historically speaking, Ouray would have been a leading candidate for opponents to experiment with their respective volleyball strategies.
The Trojans unexpectedly flipped that script Saturday morning, Sept. 8. Ignacio - with coach Thad Cano electing to move some pieces around in anticipation of tough competition - was left on the wrong end of a 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 loss in 2A/1A San Juan Basin League road action.
Not even 48 hours prior, Mancos entered IHS Gymnasium and exited as 25-15, 25-16, 25-22 winners, meaning the subsequent setback in Ouray dropped the Volleycats to 2-3 overall, 1-2 SJBL.
"A lot of the teams in our league are playing 'upper' teams," Cano said, asked about the league opponents' apparent early-season rise. "We'll be facing Kit Carson in Simla in a few weeks, so I'm going to change the lineup and we'll see how it goes."
"Everything will come into play," he added in a reassuring tone.
Having led the Jays just once - at 7-6 in Game 3 - at home, Ignacio fared somewhat better away despite trailing first-year head coach Alex Durham's squad by as much as 17-10 late in each game. Ignacio almost pulled off a win in Game 1 against Ouray, but after two aces by junior Makayla Howell tied the score at 23-23, senior Reyna Cruz sent a spike out of play and OHS then took the game via a rotation infraction against the 'Cats.
Three Ouray miscues allowed IHS to go up 5-4 early in Game 2, but the home team regained the lead for good at 7-6, and a five-point burst shortly after put the Trojans (1-3, 1-1) up 15-9 before OHS found clinching momentum at senior Izabella Howe's expense.
After Howe netted a serve, putting Ouray up 20-11, Trojan junior Kaydee Alvarez smashed a kill through IHS' middle. Howe then committed a passing error, and OHS senior Alannah Wister followed by acing Howe for a 23-11 advantage before Howe managed to score with a well-placed free ball.
Kills by Howell and Cruz helped Ignacio stave off game point twice, but another passing error conceded the game, and 2-0 lead in the match, to Ouray.
Four more mistakes early in Game 3 resulted in Trojan points, allowing OHS to go ahead 7-3, and the 'Cats would claw no closer than 8-7 before Alvarez tooled a Howell block, then fired an ace after a lift violation against IHS.
Victimized earlier, Howe almost took her revenge when Ignacio made one last bid to force a fourth game. Given the serve at 19-13, Howe landed an ace, which Howell followed with a clever running tip shot. Another Howe service gem pressed Durham into an urgent timeout, and her eager team responded.
Alvarez smacked a kill to rebuild the lead to 22-16. After IHS senior Kiana Valdez served long at 22-18, Alvarez landed another ace to bring up match point, achieved two exchanges later when Cruz netted an attack.
Alvarez totaled eight kills at a .455 rate to pace OHS, while seniors Jaden Kunz and Evelyn Wood each downed four as Wood distributed 14 assists. In the Mancos match, MHS junior Magdalena Halls put down 13 kills and senior Morgan Rose six, with junior setter Emmalee Asnicar totaling 24 assists.
Freshman Alexis Pontine handled the setting for Ignacio at Ouray and sophomore Marisa Carmenoros and senior Heather Kerrigan shared the task versus Mancos.
"Makayla again was a real positive leader; she's bringing the fire to the team," Cano said. "Two girls right there - Reyna and especially Makayla - and the rest are going to have to work through it. We'll be working, and be ready."
Up next, Ignacio will visit Telluride on Saturday, Sept. 15, then host Dolores on the 18th, with both matches key to the team's standing within the SJBL's 2A half. The crew will then travel east for the Simla Invitational on Sept. 22.