If only Manitou Springs and The Classical Academy could play each other every night.
Two of the best 3A volleyball programs in the city battled it out for the second time in three weeks, with the Mustangs once again prevailing 22-25, 25-15, 26-24, 22-25, 17-15.
“This is great because I think in the past this could be a team that would let down, but now they believe they can come back no matter what,” said Manitou Springs first-year coach Carol Benedict, whose team enjoyed the kind of raucous home crowd that is usually reserved for playoff basketball games. “This is a great group of seniors; they don’t care who gets the kills as long as the team does well.”
The roster for the Mustangs (10-5, 8-1 3A Tri-Peaks West) is certainly a strange combination – of the 14 varsity players, six are freshmen and five are seniors. But with all the girls buying in, this has become a very dangerous mixture.
Freshman Katie McKiel led Manitou Springs with 12 kills and fellow big-hitting freshman Nicole Mack added seven kills and several deflections at the net. The first-year players in green and gold certainly don’t play like they are intimidated.
“This win, and beating this team twice, shows us how good we really can be,” said McKiel, who was instrumental in the fifth game. “If we play like this we can beat teams like TCA and CSCS because we are very strong together.”
One of the senior catalysts, Meghan McGee, had 24 assists and 11 digs. She not only saw a difference in the crowd, but in her team.
“This is just a different atmosphere; we have the best group of freshmen I’ve ever played with and I think this entire team stays together better than past years,” McGee said. “The crowd was seriously amazing and I’ve never seen our volleyball court get rushed like that before.”
For TCA (6-7, 5-2) it was a tough loss in more ways than one. The Titans failed to gain revenge for the Mustangs defeating them on TCA’s home court last month and fell a game behind both Manitou Springs and CSCS (11-4, 7-1) in the league race.
Nonetheless, first-year TCA coach Matt Ferger was pleased with the way his team fought and knows that it was a great match for players, fans and coaches.
“Both times we’ve played them it’s gone to five games and with a crowd like that it really gets everyone into the match even more,” Ferger said. “I kept telling the girls to breathe in the close points and throughout the match.”
Ferger and his squad definitely want a third round with the Mustangs.
“I would love a third shot at them, but you have to give Manitou and their coach credit because they have built a great team.”