MANITOU SPRINGS — Manitou Springs volleyball edged The Classical Academy in a fantastic five-set match on Tuesday.
The Mustangs, ranked No. 3 in this week's Class 3A rankings, beat the Titans, a 4A program, 3-2 (13-25, 25-13, 14-25, 25-17, 15-9). Jane Squires, the first-year Manitou coach, said that even though her team has had different scrimmages, the match, which was their first of the season, was going to have a few kinks to work out.
"It's on the job training," Squires said. "A lot of it's confidence, this team has a lot of pressure on them, but as the game went on, we got more confident."
The Mustangs and Titans had a high-energy first set. But for Manitou, the energy was misdirected.
The Classical Academy took the first set 25-13 as the Titans were able to capitalize on the Mustangs' power-packed lineup that delivered a handful of shots out of bounds.
The Titans took an early 3-1 lead and never lost it, extending to a five-point lead (8-3), into a 12-point win in the first set. Manitou senior and University of Tampa signee Katie McKiel logged three kills in the first set, and the Titans Amber Berns and Emma Porter added a kill each of their own to the victory.
In the second set, the tables turned and power player McKiel and the Mustangs found their momentum.
Setter Angala Jensen fed pass after pass to McKeil, whose kill number quadrupled in the second set. The Titans took a lead early in the set, their team motivated largely by libero Chloe Weeks' crucial digs against McKeil's kill attempts.
But the Manitou front line wore the Titans down, with their front line's eight kills and four blocks paving the way to a 25-13 win. That frontline, composed of McKiel, Brooke Garretson and Angala Jensen all feel their chemistry as a trio works to their advantage
"We've been playing with each other since freshman year," Garretson said.
Added Jensen: "We all mix well together, and I know how they all like their sets."
All three seniors are aiming to set examples of intensity and positivity on the court this season.
In the third set, The Classical Academy once again took an early lead. This time, they kept it.
With her team trailing 13-5, Squires called a timeout, and her speech must have been something special. The Mustangs rallied to cut the lead to only five points at 16-11. But the Titans held their ground, with senior Chloe Storm adding two kills, and Berns with three digs.
TCA extended its lead back to ten points and a score of 21-12. The Classical Academy served with a 10-point cushion at 24-14, and took the third set.
Early in the fourth set, Manitou stormed out to an early 8-0 lead, but The Classical Academy came to play.
The Titans slowly cut away at the Manitou lead with five consecutive points, bringing the score to 9-5.
The teams continued to compete, with both groups showing their ability to work as a complete unit. Players from all over the court and from both sides stepped up and showed true endurance and athleticism.
Midway through the fourth set, McKeil had a crucial kill that set the Mustangs back in motion. Manitou took its six-point lead and ran with it, winning the set 25-17.
TCA served first in the final set, breaking the first point through a jumble of confused Manitou players. The Mustangs answered, scoring six consecutive points before TCA head coach Kiyo Greene called a timeout.
The timeout didn't seem to break Manitou's momentum, though — the Mustangs found themselves up 12-3 with a third of the points coming from McKiel.
The Classical Academy's Porter and her team continued to play, with Porter adding a kill, and the Titans wearing Manitou's front line down to cut the lead to five.
The Mustangs couldn't be stopped, though, and took the final set and the match with a score of 15-9.
Greene felt satisfied with TCA's performance on Tuesday, nothing that "even though Manitou is much bigger, our defense was pretty good."