COLORADO SPRINGS - This was not the way the volleyball season was supposed to end for the Woodland Park High School Panthers. Not for one of the most talented teams in Stacy Roshek’s seven years as coach of the squad.
These netters had high expectations that included competing in at least the regional playoffs. But losses to Elizabeth and Falcon in the Oct. 27 Mitchell Marauder Tournament sealed the deal for the Panthers as their season came to an abrupt end.
Woodland Park (10-13) did defeat Pueblo County and Mitchell in straight sets in the tournament, but needed to win all four matches to even have shot at a postseason bid.
“We just lose focus and can’t pick ourselves back up,” said junior outside hitter Carli Vahsholtz. “Half our team plays well, and then the other half doesn’t. We need to fix that.”
Against Manitou Springs on Oct. 23, Woodland Park came out firing and rolled to a 26-24 first-set victory. But things unraveled from there as the Panthers lost the next three games - 13-25, 23-25 and 10-25.
“We were passing well. We were hitting well. We were all kind of meshing together,” said senior middle blocker Elin Saxon. “Everything was clicking. We played very well and we fought really hard.
“I don’t know what happened the last three games. Things just kind of got away. It’s disappointing to know we have all the tools to do it. We’re just not there.”
Saxon said the final week was a microcosm of the whole season.
“It’s like a roller coaster effect, kind of,” she said. “We know we can win and we know how well we can play. We kind of get up and we get down, and we get back up. But it’s kind of too late, or the other team is really far ahead, and any mistake we make when we come back up it’s hard to recover.”
It wasn’t for a lack of talent that Woodland Park couldn’t generate the kind of consistency that Roshek or the girls expected of themselves. Senior middle blockers Hannah Sauer and Saxon were strong up front. Junior setter Paloma Juarros was solid in the middle, and junior outside hitters Linnea Sauer and Vahsholtz posed a formidable threat on the outside. Junior Alexa Garrick filled in nicely at middle blocker and right side hitter.
“We just don’t play as a team at times and can’t figure out how to get out of the rut,” Roshek said. “My expectation was for everybody to play well. We have some great seniors. We have some great juniors. I was really hoping for more this year. To put some matches together and finish.”
Vahsholtz is already thinking ahead to next year.
“We definitely have some potential for next year,” she said. “We have some good passers and stuff. A lot of our talent is going to come back. It’s going to be exciting to see how we grow.”