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RANGELY I Different year. Different team. Same result.
The Lady Panthers lost all three matches at the Class 2A state volleyball tournament last weekend in Denver. Two years ago, the same thing happened.
This team entered the state tournament riding a wave of momentum — regional tournament champions, district tournament champions, Western Slope League champions, only one loss all season, and that was against a 5A school.
Unfortunately, the wave rolled back out to sea, leaving the Lady Panthers stranded.
“Momentum is one of those things, if you start well and things go your way … if they don’t, it’s like digging your way out of a hole,” said Rangely coach Jimmie Mergelman said.
The Lady Panthers weren’t able to dig themselves out of the hole they found themselves in after the first day. Guaranteed three matches at the state tournament, No. 3 seed Rangely lost three straight games in its opening match last Friday against No. 6 seed La Veta, 25-17, 25-21, 25-7.
“I thought we were ready to go,” Mergelman said. “We just didn’t come out ready to play at all. Maybe it was a little nerves.”
Senior starter Torie Slagle injured a knee in the first game and missed the rest of the match against La Veta.
Rangely’s second match of the day was against No. 7 seed Lutheran-Parker. The Lady Panthers got off to a good start, winning the first two games, both by the score of 25-18.
Then the momentum shifted.
“We played really well in games one and two, then we just let up and they got some confidence back,” Mergelman said. “Volleyball is a game of confidence, and we just never got it back.”
Rangely lost the next two games, 25-18, 25-14, and came up short in the decisive fifth game, 16-14.
Losing its first two matches of the state tournament, the Lady Panthers knew before Saturday’s match against No. 2 Burlington they wouldn’t advance out of pool play.
“We knew we were already done,” Mergelman said. “After we lost both of those matches (on Friday), there was no chance of us breaking out of pool play.”
But the Lady Panthers played for pride.
While Rangely lost all three games against Burlington, the players, especially the seniors, could hold their heads high for what they accomplished this season and during their high school careers.
“We came out and played well. Game one was really close (25-23) and could have gone either way,” Mergelman said of the final match at state. “Like they (the players) said, they just played for the love of the game, knowing that’s your last chance for those seniors.”
For the nine seniors on varsity, it was their last time to step on the court. At least the volleyball court.
“We have one more sport to get ready for, basketball, and try to make a run for it there,” said Mergelman, who coaches both volleyball and basketball.
At least she does for now. She is undecided on whether she will continue to coach both sports.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I haven’t decided. It’s a possibility I will do it again (coach volleyball). I enjoy it. I love coaching. I love the sport, but my time and my kids … So, we’ll have to see. I haven’t made a decision yet.”
While Rangely loses 14 seniors — nine on varsity — the cupboard next season will be far from empty.
“There are some good kids coming back,” Mergelman said.
But that’s next season. There’s plenty to celebrate about this season.
“There were a lot of good things,” Mergelman said of this season’s team, which finished with a 23-4 record. “Things just didn’t go our way (at the state tournament). But that’s nothing to be ashamed of. We had a great year.”
No. 1 seed Fowler finished the season undefeated and won the state championship. No. 2 seed Burlington finished second at state.
Rangely seniors Marie Morton and Victoria Phelan were chosen to play in a coaches’ all-star tournament Sunday in Denver.
“That shows they are two of the top 16 girls in the state in 2A,” Mergelman said. “And we are one of the only teams that got two kids on there.”