LONGMONT — The Silver Creek volleyball team had wrapped up second place in the Northern League prior to Thursday night's city rivalry rematch with Longmont, but the Raptors were fueled to perform beyond just the chance at a season sweep of the Trojans.
The Raptors needed assurance that things might still be fine after losing one of their best players, senior middle Tori Schindler, to a knee injury in the team's last match.
With Longmont fighting plenty of injuries as a whole, the Trojans played inspired from the get-go on senior night, but the experienced Raptors were steady even with a lineup change that brought in freshman Caitlin Volkmann to the mix, resulting in a four-set victory for SCHS on the Longmont court.
"We lost Tori in the last game of our match on Tuesday, and so we had to dedicate our whole practice (Wednesday) to getting (Volkmann) situated in a new spot," said Silver Creek senior Taylor Merriman, who along with Rylee Anderson and Kelsey Adams were strong up front in the 25-23, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22 win. "I think we got it figured out, and she did awesome tonight.
"Tonight gave us a lot of confidence that we can keep going."
Rowdy student sections made it a fun night to be at the gym, but there was perhaps never more unity between the teams than Thursday, as Silver Creek (17-2, 12-2) warmed up in purple T-shirts in support of Longmont student Brenna Wicks, who was on hand to watch the match. Wicks is fighting aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder.
Once the action got going, each set came down to the wire. Silver Creek trailed Set 1 by 18-15 and 21-19 but the Raptors' 15th and 16th kills of the set sparked a finishing run; in Set 2, Longmont was up 19-15 but had to hold on and got the win with a Shiloh Berger kill; the Trojans fought back to make Set 3 close after it was 20-14 for the Raptors at one point; and then Silver Creek got two blocks and a kill to score the final three points of the match.
"It was a big deal and Longmont came out tonight a lot stronger than they did the last time. We weren't unprepared for it, but it was just a battle," Merriman said.
"Caitlin is really smart and mature for a freshman, and she stepped up on attack and with blocks," said Silver Creek coach Tatum McKenzie. "This team just seems mentally tough. We knew there'd be some hiccups at the beginning of this one but we adjusted great. And Longmont played so well, just a ton of hard work and heart.
"We just have a lot of options. Taylor was great and the team just fills in around each other."
Anderson had 26 kills and Merriman added 16, while Volkmann added five kills with just one hitting error. McKenna Webster had 44 assists as the Raptors were able to rack up a ton of kills.
Longmont fell to 11-7 and 6-7 in league play, tying it with Thompson Valley for fourth with one more match to go between those squads. The Trojans are fighting for their playoff lives after a rash of injuries have added up.
One of those injuries occurred early with Olivia Storaci, but the senior was allowed to come into the game against her former team for a serve despite wearing a knee brace and not able to bend her leg. Storaci transferred to Longmont from Silver Creek after her sophomore year.
"We came out and played in honor of Brenna. When we saw her walk in, it was immediate that we felt like we needed to play for her," Longmont's Rachel Kusbel said. "All these bad things keep happening for us, but this is the toughest team I've been on. We're trying to make it all work."
Silver Creek 3, Longmont 1
At Longmont HSSilver Creek (17-2, 12-2) 25 23 25 25
Kills — Silver Creek: Rylee Anderson 26; Longmont stats not available.
Blocks — Silver Creek: Taylor Merriman 2, Caitlin Volkmann 2.
Assists — Silver Creek: McKenna Webster 44.
Aces — Silver Creek: Anderson 2.
Digs — Silver Creek: Jenika Zens 31.