LONGMONT — Sure, it was a rivalry match.
But Thursday’s Northern League win against Silver Creek might have been Longmont’s least favorite of the season. Smiles were replaced with tears after the 3-1 victory for the Trojans, as senior middle Jess Kusbel suffered an agonizing knee injury that may keep her on the sideline for the rest of the year.
Even the opposing players couldn’t help but feel for the senior, who sustained a devastating injury last year, too.
“When you see something like that, you wish you could just stop playing,” Silver Creek’s Elizabeth Potter said.
The two teams did continue what was a tight match all the way through. In the end, perhaps inspired and angry at the same time, the Trojans came away with the 25-23, 26-24, 17-25, 25-23 win.
“It’s tough,” said Longmont coach Tom Hunter, whose team improved to 10-7 overall and 7-4 in league play. “She’s a leader, a great kid, and an emotional loss for us.
“I think as the time wore on and that initial shock wore off, we were able to take care of business.”
Sydney Wetterstrom had 27 kills for Longmont to go along with 32 digs. Her eight put-away shots in the first set helped Longmont get off on the right foot. In addition, Kusbel was instrumental in what was a solid Longmont block — one that kept Silver Creek (8-9, 4-6) from getting an overwhelming amount of good offense.
A couple of kills from Potter at the end of Set 2 — she finished with 14 kills — helped Silver Creek rally to tie that game at 24-24, but a Silver Creek attack error and an ace sent the Trojans up 2-0.
Silver Creek had an uphill climb from there. The Raptors won Set 3 by jumping out ahead, and it was 20-14 for the Raptors when Kusbel went after a ball near the judge’s stand, collided with it, and couldn’t return to her feet.
The Trojans were understandably shaken for awhile after Kusbel went to the bench, but Longmont rallied in Set 4 with Shiloh Berger coming alive for six kills. Becca Real had two blocks in that game, and the Trojans overcame several service errors.
“That third game when the incident happened with Jess, that lowered (the energy), but that fourth game, we felt like we needed to play for her,” Wetterstrom said. “She was angry that she got hurt and was out of the game. That fueled us. We wanted to be aggressive in hitting and with our serve, everything to it, for her.”
The serve was also the subject of Silver Creek coach Jill Olson’s ire, not for the quantity but for the timing of the miscues.
Otherwise, the Raptors had a general feeling of improvement from the last time they played Longmont.
“What really killed us tonight was our serves, and we had an incredible amount of missed serves at critical times of the game,” Olson said. “That might have been our downfall.
“I was very proud of how they came out tonight. Our practices have been geared toward playing Longmont, and I felt like we played them as tough as we could.”
“I think we’ve come a long way,” Potter added. “We played more as a team tonight than last time. Our offense wasn’t working for us in the beginning, but I think toward the end of the third set and into the fourth we picked it up.”
Olivia Storaci also had 10 kills for Silver Creek.
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LONGMONT 3, SILVER CREEK 1
At Longmont HS
Silver Creek (8-9, 4-6) 23 24 25 23
Longmont (10-7, 8-3) 25 26 17 25
Kills — Silver Creek: Potter 14, Storaci 10; Longmont: Wetterstrom 27.
Blocks — Silver Creek: Knechtel 2, Huxley 2; Longmont: Real 4.
Assists — Silver Creek: Jayne 41; Longmont: McKinney 44.
Aces — Silver Creek: Potter 1.
Digs — Silver Creek: Hubert 20, Storaci 17; Longmont: Wetterstrom 32.