NIWOT — In almost every sense, Niwot and Silver Creek have dominated Northern League volleyball play so far this season.
So when it came to matching up against each other for a second time, there was little doubt on Tuesday night that the Cougars and Raptors were going to be grinding their teeth a little bit with all the ups and downs of a potentially thrilling evening.
With Silver Creek putting Niwot against the wall with a late lead in Set 4, the host Cougars clawed back in the fiercest way, picking up blocks and putting down aces to salvage a 3-2 win that keeps them a perfect 9-0 in league play.
The 25-13, 20-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-8 clash dropped the Raptors to 7-2 in the Northern, but there were no feelings of despair on Silver Creek's side after fighting to the bitter end to a team they had lost to 3-1 earlier on at SCHS.
"We're not a one act-show, and it takes all of us to win these type of games," said Niwot's Brynn Chavez, one of just four seniors in the team. "We are always reminding ourselves that we are focusing on postseason every single game and that's our final goal. We focus on working hard for every single match and every single point to get there."
"I think we played very good but there were just a few areas that maybe we could have just pushed the extra inch. But Niwot played with a lot of heart, too," added Silver Creek's Rylee Anderson, who had a match-most 27 kills. "We hyped up this game a lot, and I think we just got in our own heads just a little bit."
Niwot has dropped but four sets in league play, and three of them have now come against Silver Creek (who have only dropped two sets to teams other than Niwot).
It was clear the Raptors wanted to prove themselves as more of a contender than they led on that first go-round. After allowing 12 aces and looking disorganized in the first set Tuesday, Silver Creek rapidly suspended its serve receive woes and put that on the Cougars in Set 2.
Anderson also got in a groove with setter McKenna Webster, and between Sets 2 and 3 the Raptors totaled 21 kills, seven aces and five blocks.
Both teams went on some electric runs in Set 4, with Niwot gaining as much as a 10-3 lead before letting the Raptors score 15 of the next 18 points, and Silver Creek led 18-13 and appeared ready to close it out.
Niwot capped that game with three momentum-swinging block points, five kills and an ace, and once again the serve receive for Silver Creek struggled with six aces allowed in the finale.
As many aces as Silver Creek had on the night, Niwot was even more impressive with 27 for the match.
"The serve is really the only aspect of the game that you are in complete control of, so we focus a lot on that knowing we can take advantage of it in the game," said Chavez, who had eight aces including three in Set 5. "Our mentality is to be aggressive on the serve and get them rattled."
"It was a good match, and I think with two teams that are competing for first place in league and for top seeds for regionals, you want them to compete the way they did tonight," Niwot coach Preston Brown said. "I have a lot of respect for Silver Creek, and I'm happy for our girls that they were able to tough it out."
Niwot 3, Silver Creek 2
At Niwot HSSilver Creek (12-2, 7-2) 13 25 25 23 8
Niwot (10-3, 9-0) 25 20 18 25 15
Kills — Silver Creek: Rylee Anderson 27, Taylor Merriman 8; Niwot: Mackenzie Fidelak 13, Sarah Falk 9, Emma Falk 8, Zoe Gonzales 4.
Blocks — Silver Creek: Tori Schindler 3, Chloe Olson 2; Niwot: Fidelak 3, E. Falk 3, Emma Shiers 2.
Assists — Silver Creek: Webster 35; Niwot: Brynn Chavez 35.
Aces — Silver Creek: Webster 5, Anderson 4, Chloe Olson 3, Jenika Zens 3, Taylor Merriman 2, Amy Zens 1; Niwot: Chavez 8, S. Falk 6, Audrey Richard 6, Fidelak 3, E. Falk 3.
Digs — Silver Creek: A. Zens 17, J. Zens 14, Anderson 12, Merriman 11, Webster 6; Niwot: Ashley Bradbury 15, Richard 9, Chavez 8, Fidelak 7, Shiers 5, S. Falk 4.