AURORA | With a roster changed by graduation and flush with youth, Laura Dunston had little idea what to expect from her Regis Jesuit volleyball team when it took the floor for the first time Monday night.
An hour and a half after the first serve of a season-opening home match with defending Class 5A state champion Grandview, Dunston came away encouraged.
The Raiders made a minimal amount of mistakes for a season opener, limited the Wolves’ runs and capitalized in the key moments on their way to a 25-23, 25-21, 25-17 sweep of Grandview, a program Regis Jesuit had never beaten before.
“I liked what I saw from our first outing; we have a lot of room to improve and stuff to build on,” said Dunston, whose team had been 0-for-4 all-time against Grandview, including two defeats last season, a five-setter in the season opener and a sweep at the state tournament.
“My team is going to have a lot of heart and play fundamentally sound volleyball,” she added. “I think it’s going to be a fun season.”
Senior Taylor Smith pounded out a match-high 16 kills to go with 14 digs, senior Mary Raitt made 19 digs to go with seven kills, junior Alex Osredker added eight kills and junior Kasandra Sturges excelled in her new role as the team’s lone setter in a 5-1 system, racking up 35 assists and punctuating the night with a perfectly-timed dump on match point.
Smith’s hope for the season is to help the Raiders make a run at the state championship and that aim looked realistic in the play against last season’s state champions.
“Just the thought of it being Grandview, that’s so exciting,” Smith said. “We were all nervous to play, but knowing that we came out strong and weren’t mental at all, it’s a great start to the season.”
Grandview, which graduated a slew of standouts from last season’s state championship team, lacks the high-profile names its used to having, but coach Patty Childress’ Wolves flashed the type of play that always makes her team a contender come state tournament time.A number of mental miscues in the form of net violations or being out of rotation prevented them from really taking control of the match with Regis Jesuit.
Senior Madisen Busler, who led the Wolves with nine kills, believes there is plenty to build on once the Wolves get the right mentality.
“Volleyball is definitely a game of errors and it’s definitely a mental game,” Busler said. “Once we get mentally tough on the court, we’re going to be a lot stronger than we were today. Pretty much all our mistakes were mental.”
Franchesca Reed added eight kills for Grandview, which got 11 digs from junior Raychel Reed.
The Wolves had a change to start strong as they led the Raiders 23-22 late in the opening set, but a tip by Raitt tied it up, an ill-timed net violation gave Regis Jesuit the lead and Busler’s shot down the line drifted wide to close out the opening set.
The Raiders never trailed in either of the final two sets, staving off late Grandview charges that it within 21-20 late in the second set and 22-17 in the third set, which Regis Jesuit led by as many as 11 points.
Regis Jesuit gets another stiff test on Wednesday night with a visit from 4A contender Valor Christian before playing host to the Regis Jesuit Jam Friday and Saturday at the Gold Crown Fieldhouse.
The Jam includes a slew of ranked teams, including preseason No. 1 Cherokee Trail, as well as Chaparral and Legend.
Grandview is also in action at home on Wednesday when Mountain Vista makes a 6:15 p.m. visit.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
REGIS JESUIT DEF. GRANDVIEW 25-23, 25-21, 25-17
Grandview kills: Madisen Busler 9, Franchesca Reed 8, Marina Schlaepfer 5, Madison Fleer 3, Abby Myers 2, Brennah Gaston 2, Emma Heaton, Kayla Lewis; Regis Jesuit kills: Taylor Smith 16, Alex Osredker 8, Mary Raitt 7, Noelle Cahill 4, Liz Koch 4, Kasandra Sturges; Grandview assists: Angelica Juan 14, Heaton 12, Rachael Rupprecht 2, Payton Wolf; Regis Jesuit assists: Sturges 35; Grandview digs: Raychel Reed 11, Busler 9, Rupprecht 6, Juan 4, Brennah Gaston 2, Heaton 2, Schlaepfer 2, Ilani Myers; Regis Jesuit digs: Raitt 19, Smith 14, Cahill 12, Sturges 8, Jenna Heinemeyer 7, Haley Malloy 4, Meghan Thornton