Volleyball: Skyline enjoying resurgence with veteran group

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Skyline senior Kamilah Bugarin said that team unity has been a big factor in the Falcons getting off to a 6-2 mark.

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Skyline senior Gaby Bustillo and the Falcons are off to a 6-2 start this season after the program only won a total of four games in 2016-17.

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Skyline junior Abby Stoops and the Falcons have a big Tri-Valley League game against visiting Frederick Tuesday night.

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LONGMONT — Whether or not someone related to the Skyline volleyball program broke a mirror or two in 2010, bad luck has followed the Falcons for the past seven years.

The Falcons were 1-22 last season, Susan Karimi’s first as head coach. They went 1-21 in 2016, head coach Will Rozum’s final year at the helm. Skyline, in fact, hasn’t won more than six matches in any season since Rozum coached the team to a 23-5 record and an appearance at the state tournament in 2010.

Skyline volleyball has had a rough go of things these past seven seasons. But roughly a third of the way through the 2018 campaign, the Falcons boast a 6-2 record and it appears as though the curse may have been lifted.

“We’ve changed a lot,” Falcons senior setter Kamilah Bugaris said. “It mainly has to do with how unified we are as a team. In the past, we used to worry so much about winning and about our skills. But our coach, Susan, has really emphasized our unity and it’s made a big impact on the way that we play and how hard we push each other to keep working and keep fighting.”

Karimi said in the preseason that she was optimistic about a large group of returning players and how determined that group was to distance itself from last year’s lack of success. It became clear immediately that Karimi’s optimism was justified when the Falcons went 4-0 at the Thornton Tournament to open the season.

Following a loss to Thompson Valley, their first of the season, the Falcons won back-to-back matches against Thornton and Pomona before losing to Fort Morgan last Thursday. With a big local rivalry match against Frederick (11-1) scheduled for Tuesday, the Falcons are preparing for their biggest test this season and one of many to come in a tough Tri-Valley League schedule.

“These kids have worked hard with me for the past 15 months to get into a playing mentality and to be stronger during the season,” Karimi said. “The girls are well aware that we’re getting into the heart of the hard matches. The thing we have in our favor, and what we have not done in the past, is that we’ve actually scrimmaged all of these teams over the summer. So, we’re familiar with these schools and we’ve done our homework on them.

“Our team is half seniors and half juniors, so they’re familiar with the faces across the net. We can’t add height, so our motto is to play smart and play harder than the other team. We have very smart kids and they’ve been playing together now for years and their very committed to keeping it going.”

Karimi said the Falcons coaches have invested more in the area’s youth, which has doubled the program’s participation numbers over the past two years.

With an undersized but intelligent roster, Jenny Dunder, Sophia Lindauer and Molly Hennessy, each of whom is averaging 1.9 kills per set, compose a group of four juniors with 30 or more kills that also includes Abigail Stoops. Bugarin, one of six seniors on the roster, averages 6.8 assists per set.

“We believe that we have all the tools necessary to compete with all the teams we’ll play and we’re also always going to put up a fight,” Bugaris said. “No matter how good a team that we’re playing is, we believe in ourselves and we’re going to be ready to go all season.”

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi

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