Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Jocelyn Rowley
sports@lhvc.com 

Niwot heads into the postseason with momentum

 

November 2, 2018

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Zoe Gonzales takes a pass from Madison Schoeder for a kill against Holy Family on Oct. 24.

If Niwot head coach Daisha Agho had many serious concerns about her squad heading into the postseason, then their play down the stretch against the top teams in Class 4A and 5A went a long way to quell them. Led by the senior trio of Emma Falk, Zoe Gonzales and Audrey Richard, the Cougars posted rousing victories against Longmont and Holy Family, then closed out the regular season by taking three out of four matches in the two-day Ponderosa Tournament, held Oct. 26-27.

For Agho, the team’s first loss in eleven games may have been the most important outcome of the weekend.

“I was really proud of them for being able to adjust after that match and come back to play what I call ‘Cougar Ball’,” she commented after the tournament. “Overall, I was happy with the weekend and it's actually good to lose once in a while to keep you humble and remember that there is always room for improvement.”

On paper, it’s hard to find much of that room. Niwot had just three regular season losses, two to teams ranked in the Class 4A top-five (Lewis Palmer, Longmont), and another top Class 5A team (Rock Canyon, in the Ponderosa tournament). In conference play, the Cougars went 13-1, losing just five sets all season, and finished tied with Longmont for the 2018 Northern League title.

The Cougars salvaged that share of the title with an impressive victory over the Trojans in their Oct. 18 rematch, taking it in four sets (25-19, 26-28, 25-23, 25-19). Looking to avenge their Sept. 25 loss to the cross-town rival, the Cougars’ three big hitters clearly came ready for a fight.

“Being at home, with that intensity, and it’s such a big rivalry, I think we all played at our top level tonight,” middle hitter Gonzales said. She had 12 kills on the night, including the game point in set three. “We all really came together.”

Middle hitter Falk led the team against Longmont with a career-best 24 kills and clearly had the Trojan defense off balance for most of the third set. She also had 15 digs, four blocks, and an ace in the win. Outside hitter Richard had 15 kills on the night, along with three aces and a season-high 26 digs.

Niwot followed up that big win with another, this time over perennial powerhouse Holy Family for the first time since 2014. In their final home match of the season, the Cougars beat the Tigers in four sets (25-21, 25-15, 23-25, 25-23), again thanks in large part to their senior hitters.

“In our four years at Niwot we have never beat Holy Family,” Richard said. They came close in 2017, going up 2-0, before dropping three consecutive sets to fall, 3-2. “There was so much emotion going into that last set. When we lost the third, it was all about coming back and defending our house, we just wanted it so badly.”

Richard had another 15 kills on the night, and has been Niwot’s second-most prolific hitter down the stretch, with 78 kills in the final six matches. She also had 22 digs and two aces against the Tigers. Falk and Gonzales had 12 kills apiece, and combined for nine blocks.

Agho was happy with her team’s play against the long-time rival, but wasn’t happy with everything she saw on her team’s half of the court.

Jocelyn Rowley

Senior Zoe Gonzales returns the ball against Holy Family on Oct. 24.

“I did not expect the third set to go that direction after such a nice second set,” she said. “It’s the third set ghosts that we’ve been battling all season long. We’ve got to be able to mentally start a match over again. That third match, it should be 0-0, but right now, we’re playing comfortable, and I don’t like it. This postseason we’re going to see teams that aren’t going to let us be comfortable, so we’ve got to be able to push through those sorts of things and see the court better.”

Niwot enters the upcoming Class 4A state tournament as the number-three seed overall, and will host the Region 3 qualifier against Thomas Jefferson (12-11) and Mullen (12-11) on Nov. 2.

“I fully expect both teams to be ready to play against us,” Agho said. “Both teams are familiar to postseason play and anything can happen which is why it's so important for us to stay focused and driven this week in practice and our scrimmage on Wednesday at Windsor.”

 

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