Matthew Jonas/Staff Photographer
LOUISVILLE — Monarch volleyball has manifested itself into a credible threat in the Front Range League this fall, predicated in part to the sticky task of both shooting around ball-magnet Sophie Kubiak and over a wall of defense that includes net-stuffers Julia Jupille and Mia Prater.
And even in loss Thursday, if it can couple that with the kind of resiliency it showed against visiting Fort Collins, this FRL threat could soon turn into a true postseason challenger.
The Coyotes lost for just the second time in four weeks despite staving off seven match points, eventually falling to the Lambkins in a two-hour, five-set thriller.
In defeat, Monarch (7-6, 4-2 FRL) bounced back from a first-set meltdown, saw a miraculous rally in the fourth come up just short, and wouldn’t go away in the fifth.
Trailing 12-8 in the final set, Jupille had a crucial ace as the Coyotes shook off two match points in knotting things at 14-all.
Behind the devastating blows of Sidney Kettlekamp, the Lambkins (8-6, 4-2) took leads of 15-14, 16-15, 17-16 and 18-17, but couldn’t find a knockout until a mashup at the net ended things, 25-17, 23-25, 16-25, 25-23, 20-18.
“We fight for every point that we possibly can, one more, the next one, what can we get,” Monarch coach Jennifer Dixon said. “We just never give up, digging and flying in and playing every ball possible. You can see the heart and desire in these girls.”
The Lambkins rallied from a big hole in the first on the strength of a 17-3 closing run, then erased another Coyotes lead in the second to go up 22-20.
Monarch consistently had a response, though.
A masterful defensive sequence that saw a dig off some wrestling mats attached to the gym’s ceiling set the tone in the second, and a Kubiak blast so hard that it knocked down a player fueled the Coyotes to five of that set’s final six points.
Monarch won the third going away, then trailed 20-12 in the fourth before climbing furiously back to tie things at 21. A block from Fort Collins’ Emily Johnson, however, sent things to the fifth.
“Even though it is a heartbreaking loss, I think we know all of us are looking to get back in the gym and get better and take the next one,” Jupille said.
The loss hampers the Coyotes in the league race after they came into the night a game back of FRL leaders Broomfield and Fossil Ridge (Broomfield swept Fossil Ridge on Thursday). It also serves as a minor hit to its outlook in reaching the 36-team Class 5A regional field.
The qualifier tournament for state will be made up of league winners followed by the highest-ranked teams according to CHSAA’s RPI system. Monarch came in ranked 25th, while Fort Collins was 23rd.
The Coyotes haven’t been to regionals since 2018.
From here, Monarch has five league games remaining. Tuesday, it hosts Loveland before traveling to Fossil Ridge in a week.