Longmont's Brenna Wicks
To read more about Brenna and her battle with aplastic anemia, or to make a donation, go to http://bit.ly/2dKvvyS
LONGMONT — Every team has to have that one go-to player.
The one that thrives under the pressure of the big point and when the situation gets a little dicey, is there to make the necessary play to restore order.
For Niwot, which has displayed a propensity to have any of a number of girls step up for that role at various points this season, it will usually be junior Mackenzie Fidelak.
On Tuesday night against Longmont, the Cougars 6-foot-3 outside hitter was called upon not once but twice to help close out the first two sets against a Trojans team that was playing very well despite mounting injuries.
Sixth-ranked Niwot (12-3 overall, 11-0 in the Northern League) won those pressure packed first two games in what coach Preston Brown referred to as "extra innings" and it propelled them to a three set sweep 27-25, 28-26, 25-13.
"We are fortunate that we have other kids that can put the ball away, but in a pinch we like to go where we like to go," said Brown, whose team has a two game lead in the league with three to play. "She had a pretty big game."
Longmont, which is playing minus seniors Olivia Storaci (knee) and Trista Woefle (shoulder), has dropped four of its last five matches and falls to 10-5 overall and 5-5 in the Northern.
The Trojans, who were playing for their teammate Brenna Wicks — who is at Childrens Hospital battling a rare condition — came out swinging against the Cougars and were on the verge of winning each of the first two sets.
But Niwot got a huge block from Emma Shiers and a kill from Fidelak to close out the first set.
Then, in the second, Longmont set point at 26-25, but the Cougars rattled off three consecutive point to squash the Trojans hopes. Audrey Richard put away one kill to draw even and then Fidelak, who also finished with a game-high four blocks closed out the set by getting defensive.
"Those first two games, we probably played the best ball we've played all season," Longmont coach Holli Stetson said. "Just really being committed to our positions and our jobs on the court and I was pleased to see how they came out so strong."
Said Brown: "We were a little out of rhythm in the first two sets, but what the girls did well was keep their head in it and kept working. Longmont is a very good defensive team and they frustrated us a little bit."
Niwot took over in the third set, jumping out to 22-6 lead before Longmont was able to rally and make the score a little more respectable.
Brown is pleased with where his team is at this point in the season and will find out a lot about his team after the league slate wraps up. The Cougars will play a nonleague match against Holy Family and then close out the season against a talented big school field at the Ponderosa tournament.
"We always want to make sure that we are getting better every week," he said. Those games will get us ready for the postseason and hopefully we can do well and then see how it all shakes out."
Both teams wore purple warmup shirts honoring Wicks, who is battling aplastic anemia, which is a rare blood disorder where the body stops producing enough new blood cells. Proceeds from sale of the shirts help raise money for Wicks and her family, whose medical bills continue to rise, according to Stetson.
The Trojans, along with Silver Creek, will don the shirts again when they face the Raptors on Oct. 20.
Niwot 3, Longmont 0
At LongmontNiwot (12-3, 11-0) 27 28 25
Longmont (10-5, 5-5) 25 26 13
Kills — N: Fidelak 13, Sarah Falk 10; L: Shiloh Berger 10, Kusbel 7, Walker 7.
Blocks — N: Zoe Gonzales 4, Mackenzie Fidelak 4; L: Rachel Kusbel 4, Mikayla Snyder 2.
Assists — N: Chavez 26; L: Wetterstrom 26.
Aces — N: Rachel Priola 3, Chavez 2, Fidelak 2, Emma Shiers 2, Falk 2; L: Walker 2, Zoe Lowe 2.
Digs — N: Ashley Bradbury 25, Brynn Chavez 10, Fidelak 10; L: Kusbel 16, Annika Wetterstrom 15, Jensen Walker 12.