Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley

Volleyball: Niwot stays unbeaten in conference with comeback win over Longmont


September 20, 2017

Ed Navarro

Emma Falk and teammates celebrate after winning a point against Longmont.

Niwot almost got more than it could handle from Longmont last Thursday night, needing five sets to secure its seventh win of the season, 26-24, 21-25, 22-25, 25-19,15-13.

The Cougars had difficulty with serve receipt at several points during the first three sets, and communication between the front and back lines was clearly an ongoing problem. After falling behind 2-1 to the hard-hitting Trojans, Niwot seemed on the verge of its first conference loss since 2015.

But clutch points from juniors Emma Falk, Zoe Gonzales, and Audrey Richard in the fourth set sparked a Niwot resurgence, and the Cougars held on for the thrilling 3-2 win.

“I knew it was going to be a tough one coming in,” said Niwot head coach Daisha Agho after her team handed the Trojans their first loss of the year. “There were some great shots from Longmont. They’re always well coached — Holli [Stetson] is phenomenal. They’re ranked in the top-10 for a reason.”

There were signs early on that the Trojans might be trouble after repeated defensive miscues by the Cougars put them behind 17-21 in the first set. Led by Falk with three blocks and an ace, Niwot battled back to take the set, 26-24.

The Cougars wouldn’t be so lucky in the next two sets. Taking advantage of repeated unforced errors by Niwot, the Trojans overcame an 8-2 deficit early in the second frame and then rattled off six straight points late to win 21-25. In the third, the Trojans pressed their advantage, keeping the score close before pulling away after the midway point and going on to win 22-25.

Momentum seemed to be all on Longmont’s side going into the fourth set, but Falk and the Cougars had other ideas.

“There was a kind of anger,” said the junior middle hitter of her team’s response to trailing their longtime conference rival. “We knew what we had to do. We knew what we’d come here for, and we weren’t going to leave with a loss.”

Falk, Richard and senior Mackenzie Fidelak, who ended the night with 15 kills, led Niwot to a quick 11-3 lead in the fourth set. The Trojans fought back, and eventually closed the gap to three points, but Fidelak and Falk held them off, and the Cougars went on to win 25-19. The Cougars fell behind early in the decisive fifth set, but an 11-1 run — powered by key plays from Gonzales and Richard — put them right back in it, and Niwot held on to win 15-13.

“I’m very proud of them for pulling it out, for keeping their composure,” said Agho. “I told them that pressure is a privilege. Coming into that third set, fourth set, fifth set they responded pretty well, took control of the things we could control.”

Fidelak ended the night with a season-best 15 kills, seven blocks, and 13 digs. Richard also had season bests in kills (12) and digs (12), while Gonzales had another matched set with seven kills and seven blocks. Senior Julia Stephenson added another nine kills, while junior Rachel Priola had nine digs and two aces.

Falk had her own season-best performance with nine kills, nine blocks and seven digs. She also had three aces on the night, bringing her season total to 20.

“She’s kind of a sleeper,” said Agho of the towering junior’s hitting style. “You don’t even realize that her serves are so deadly because she’s so tall and it doesn’t look like it’s coming at you that hard, but that thing drops.

Agho praised Falk’s reliability, calling her third-year varsity middle hitter “consistent” and “smart with the ball,” noting that she had also contributed from the back-line in the game. “She’s one of those go-to kids. If I need to make a change, I know I can leave her anywhere and she’ll perform for me.”

While Agho was clearly relieved to be leaving with the win, she was clear-headed about the Cougars’ remaining problem areas, especially on defense.

“It humbles us to be able to lose a set and then be able to come back and do what we just did,” she said. “We still have some work to do. There are some weaknesses in discipline as far as defense goes. But they’re getting it, they’re starting to move a little better; they’re starting to see why we’re teaching them the things we are in practice; they’re starting to react in games, and I only expect them to get better from here.”

Earlier in the week, the Cougars posted their third conference win after a sweep of Northridge. Fidelak and Gonzales combined for 15 kills and six blocks in the win, while Falk had eight aces.

Niwot hits the road next week for conference match against Mountain View, then is back home on Sep. 21 against Greeley Central.

(9/12) — Niwot 3, Northridge 0

Cougars (6-1, 3-0) 25 25 25

Grizzlies (4-3, 0-3) 14 17 7

Kills — Mackenzie Fidelak 8, Zoe Gonzales 7, Emma Shiers 7, Audrey Richard 6, Emma Falk 4, Julia Stephenson 1

Blocks — Mackenzie Fidelak 3, Zoe Gonzales 3, Emma Falk 1, Audrey Richard 1, Emma Shiers 1, Julia Stephenson 1

Digs — Audrey Richard 9, Katie Hirsh 8, Rachel Priola 7, Emma Falk 5, Emma Shiers 4, Mackenzie Fidelak 2, Katie Pearson 2, Julia Stephenson 1, Maraya Haynes 1

Aces — Emma Falk 8, Audrey Richard 3, Emma Shiers 2

(9/14) — Niwot 3, Longmont 2

Cougars (7-1, 4-0) 26 21 22 25 15

Ed Navarro

Niwot sophomore Emma Shiers serves against Longmont.

Trojans (8-1, 3-1) 24 25 25 19 13

Kills — Mackenzie Fidelak 15, Audrey Richard 12, Emma Falk 9, Julia Stephenson 9, Zoe Gonzales 7, Emma Shiers 5,

Blocks — Emma Falk 9, Mackenzie Fidelak 7, Zoe Gonzales 7, Audrey Richard 3, Julia Stephenson 1

Digs — Mackenzie Fidelak 13, Rachel Priola 12, Audrey Richard 12, Katie Pearson 8, Emma Falk 7, Emma Shiers 7, Katie Hirsh 4, Zoe Gonzales 1, Julia Stephenson 1

Aces — Emma Falk 3, Rachel Priola 2, Mackenzie Fidelak 1, Emma Shiers 1


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