Glenwood Spring senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Johnson had enough.
Johnson and the rest of the Demons had a great chance to take a 2-0 lead against the visiting Grand Junction Tigers Tuesday night inside Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, but instead the Demons’ girls volleyball team gave away a 20-15 lead, losing 25-20. That collapse in the second set lit a fire under the senior captain.
In the third and fourth sets, Johnson absolutely dominated for the Demons, leading the Demons to wins by scores of 25-9 and 25-19 to put away the Tigers in the official regular season opener for both teams.
Johnson had 6 aces, 6 kills, and 3 blocks in the final two sets, pushing the Demons across the finish line.
“I remember when Kaitlyn was much younger, she had a tough time controlling her serves and her demeanor on the court; it was night and day tonight, though,” Jason Obreque, Glenwood’s interim head coach in place of Kehau Rust, who is on maternity leave, said following the win. “She’s emerged into a great leader for this team.”
Glenwood needed to right the ship after two tough losses at home Saturday on the final day of the Demon Invitational. The first set was a good start at shaking off the losses as Glenwood and Grand Junction traded points early until the Demons pulled away to make it 14-8 on a pair of aces from senior middle hitter Emily Nilsson. A kill by sophomore Charlotte Olszewski and a perfectly placed tip by Nilsson later made it 21-10 before back-to-back kills from senior Shanik Zambrano closed out the 25-10 first-set win.
The Demons rolled into the second set with the momentum gained in the back half of the first set as Glenwood jumped out to a 10-6 lead on an ace from Nilsson and a kill from junior Kiah Larson. An ace from Johnson and a kill from sophomore Kenzie Winder then made it 17-13, before the Demons forced a couple of errors from the Tigers to make it 20-15.
That’s when the comeback for Grand Junction and the collapse for Glenwood Springs started.
The Demons allowed the Tigers back into the second set with a pair of net violations and a couple of long volleys, while the Tigers received a trio of aces from senior Sage Skinner, making it a 21-20 game. From there, the Demons struggled to stop the onslaught, eventually losing on another net violation, knotting things up at 1-1.
“We stopped paying attention to what their defense was doing,” Obreque said. “They adjusted their defense and we didn’t adjust our offense, and things started to turn for them.”
What looked to be a second set win on the way to a potential sweep suddenly vanished, as the Demons found themselves tied at 1-1 with the Tigers holding all of the momentum.
A quick, calming message in between the second and third sets from Obreque settled the Demons down, though, leading to two straight set wins.
“I told the girls what I’ve told them in practice over and over: one game is one game, just start over and keep pushing,” Obreque said.
Thanks to Johnson, Nilsson and Zambrano, the Demons pushed back in a big way, taming the Tigers for the 3-1 win.
In the third set, Glenwood raced out to a 16-6 lead as Johnson had 2 aces and 4 kills, while Nilsson and Zambrano combined for 1 ace and 2 kills, pacing the Glenwood attack. Grand Junction tried to rally as senior Kate Hayde recorded a thunderous kill to make it 17-7, sparking the Tigers’ bench, but 2 kills from Zambrano, and a kill and an ace from Johnson finished off the third set with Glenwood on top 25-9.
The fourth and final set was another fast start for Glenwood as the Demons recorded 5 aces in the game’s first 10 points, putting a ton of breathing room between themselves and the Tigers in the deciding set. Johnson and junior Reese Goluba led the way as servers, placing the ball wherever they wanted, giving the Tigers’ defense fits.
“One thing as a coach that I like to emphasize is serve receive and serve,” Obreque said. “That’s something we work on consistently in practice, and they’ve steadily been getting so much better. Kaitlyn can place a ball pretty much anywhere I tell her to, and she’s consistent with it; that really helps.”
A kill from Zambrano and a tip into the heart of the Tiger defense by Nilsson capped off the 25-19 win, giving Glenwood the win over Grand Junction, pushing the Demons to 4-2 on the year.
“This was a great game for us to open the regular season with, “ Obreque said. “This was a chance for the girls to work on letting go of losses, reset, and get back to the basics of the game.”
The Demons travel to Battle Mountain Thursday night to take on the Huskies at 6:30 p.m. in a 4A Western Slope League tilt.