It was exactly the kind of battle you would expect from two league rivals.
Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs Christian entered Thursday’s game each having won their past eight matches - and both remained unbeaten in 3A Tri-Peaks play.
In addition, the rivals have a talented core of veterans, with Manitou Springs returning its entire 2017 squad, and CSCS losing just three players from last year.
As if they were replaying last year’s clash, CSCS claimed a 3-1 victory over Manitou Springs, despite the Mustangs’ inspiring attempts to battle back late in the final two sets.
The Lions earned the win 25-19, 14-25, 25-22, 25-20.
Heading into Set 2, the momentum swung to Manitou Springs’ side of the net as the Mustangs went off for a quick 7-1 lead, ultimately capping off the set win on a 5-2 run.
“The second set, we played our game,” Manitou Springs coach Jane Squires said. “I was really proud of them the second set. We moved the ball well, lots of hitters moving. But we didn’t do a very good job blocking, and blocking on our side of the net a few times.”
But Squires said Thursday’s loss will be good for her team in the long run. Having won their past eight matches and having only lost two sets, Squires said her team needed to see good competition.
“We got that competition, so the takeaway is how we handled it, and what did we learn from it,” Squires said.
The Lions went right to work in the remaining two sets, separating themselves early - a good thing for CSCS, as Manitou Springs continued to pressure toward the end of each set, led by power hitter and Italian foreign exchange student Giulia Vidossi.
“We changed the lineup and rotation just a hair (to help defend Vidossi),” CSCS coach Lori Currier said. “She was a great line hitter and very precise so we attempted to dig that line or block that line a little more. But she was great and did a good job even with our adjustments, so we were trying to keep them out of system so they couldn’t set her as precisely.”
Although she feels most at home on the basketball court, Megan Engesser also brings her competitive fire to the CSCS volleyball team, helping to lead the Lions to a nine-game winning streak.
Late in the third and fourth sets when Manitou Springs was pressuring, Engesser said she channeled something her dad, girls’ basketball coach Mark Engesser, always says.
“Manitou had some really good players and some great plays, so I gave a little speech my dad says in basketball all the time,” Engesser said. “Hustle, heart, grit, passion, motor, energy, effort, emotion, and whoever has those will end up winning, so that’s what we did.”
Last year Engesser was one of the top contributors on the Lions squad that despite a successful run in league play, fell early in regionals. Joining Engesser back on the court is Christa Vogt and Jubilee Diamond, who together put up 66 percent of the Lions’ total scoring last year, led by Vogt who had 201 kills.
“Having some experience on the court is huge because a lot of volleyball is just having the feel for the right play at the right time, so having that experience helps so much,” Engesser said.
Both teams have a handful of 3A Tri-Peaks games remaining this season, and Currier said though they beat Manitou Springs for first place in league, the Lions have a long way to go before clinching the title.