Niwot — Sent through the highs and the contrary during her four years on Niwot’s varsity volleyball team, senior Zoe Gibbs has a firm grip on the erratic variables in high school sports — her pinpoint blasts not being one of them.
The recent University of Northern Colorado commit was part of the school’s 4A runner-up team as a freshman, a losing season the following, and a bounce back during the pandemic spring season, where the Cougars’ nice run eventually ended months ago at regionals.
Her final season is off to a strong start.
“Honestly I’m so grateful having these experiences,” said Gibbs after the Cougars’ four-set, home-opening win over Silver Creek Wednesday night. “My freshman year, I got to play in the semis and finals at state, and then I was able to come back and try to be a leader the next year. Having these players around me has made it so worth it.”
The Cougars went 11-4 in the spring, where a minimized schedule and further quarantines kept things confusing for all up to the final days. And now with hopes of a more normal fall, Niwot coach Daisha Agho’s team appears to have built on their success from months ago with early wins over both Class 4A runner-up Mead and their crosstown foe.
The latter saw a packed gymnasium and opposing student sections trading barbs throughout. Niwot (2-0) and Silver Creek (0-5) have now split the last four matches in the rivalry.
“We don’t expect to get anything easily,” Gibbs said. “We just have to go in and play our game.”
Their “game”, it wasn’t, noted Agho. But the Cougars prevailed anyway, 25-14, 25-22, 22-25, 25-13.
Gibbs helped lead the way with 12 kills, 12 digs and two aces as Niwot fell behind in each of the first three sets — much to the delight of Silver Creek’s loud away gathering — winning two of them. The fourth and final frame was a runaway, though.
In it, and fittingly enough, Gibbs blasted a kill so precise it hit a Silver Creek player and knocked her down.
“(Gibbs) has built this program to be what it is today,” Agho said. “I can speak of so many accolades for her. All the credit goes to her. The kind of kid she is, the leadership capabilities, her style of play, her work ethic, this entire program sees that and feeds off that.”
In the first, Gibbs hit a shot off a defender and it went out the back of the court as part of seven straight points. The Cougars pushed the lead to 15-3 as junior libero Varshini Panuganti made a few saves with a series of lay-out digs. Gibbs’ clinching shot spiked another player and flew out.
Then senior teammate Morgan Daugherty, who had a team-leading 14 kills for Niwot, was vital in erasing a second-set deficit.
Silver Creek, behind the offensive power of Alex Konczalski and Megan Sotiroff, and despite a series of late kills from Daugherty, held on to win the third.
“We have some things to work on,” Agho said. “But it’s only the second game. Right? I can’t be upset about it. It’s nice to have that home opener over with so we can learn from it, move on and play a little more relaxed.”
Silver Creek, facing a non-league schedule of teams all with winning records coming into Wednesday, fell for a fifth straight match. And it gets no easier from here.
The Raptors open play in the 5A/4A Northern Colorado Athletic Conference against Holy Family Tuesday, while Niwot starts 4A/3A Longs Peak competition against Mountain View.