The Telluride Lady Miners volleyball team heads into the playoffs on a five-game winning streak. (Courtesy photo)

Don’t look now, but the Telluride Lady Miners volleyball team is rolling into the postseason. With an overall record of 15-8, the local squad carries a five-game winning streak into this weekend’s 2A regional tournament in Denver under first-year head coach Shelby Thomas, who is quick to point out that the girls dropped only one match during the month of October.

“I’m feeling great about it. We won almost all of our games in October. Our games against Dolores (Oct. 21) and Dove Creek (Oct. 23) really put some spark into the girls. They really want it, so I’m feeling really good going into this weekend,” she said, noting the two 3-2 wins over regional rivals. “We played Dolores first, and we pulled out that win. That’s our rival school. Pulling out that win in October, and then the very next game playing Dove Creek, who was 17-1, and we beat them. Both of those games were huge for them to show if they let go of their frustrations and we just play the way we know how to play we’re unstoppable.”

The girls leave Friday morning, with a practice at Lakewood High School planned that afternoon, before the tournament starts Saturday.

The playoff schedule includes Denver Christian (17-6) at 11 a.m. and Byers (14-9) at noon.

Thomas explained she and her assistant coaches, Jen Tarwater and Fawnda Rogers, have been busy scouting the opponents.

“We have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking at. There shouldn’t be any surprises and that’s how we’ve tailored our practices this week. Denver Christian has a good middle and outside, so how do we block that, how do we stop that,” she added. “Byers has two great outside hitters, so how do we work those blocks and shut them down so that they’re not scoring on us, but also how do we hit around that.”

Thomas, who previously coach the Norwood girls volleyball team, explained the season had its ups and downs, as they all do, especially since she didn’t come on as head coach until a day before practices started. But that feels like a long time ago, and since then, she’s seen the team come together and mature throughout the year.

“I think we started off a little rough. The talent has always been amazing with these girls. I think mentally is where we struggled at the start. I think now our girls have learned to let go of anything that hits into the net, or a bad pass, set or serve. I think the girls are starting to realize that’s OK and that they’ll get better instead of bitter. That’s what I always tell them,” she said. “In this last month I think we’ve really grown mentally. That is the key to our success is being able to overcome those and have that great chemistry on the court because the talent is amazing.”

After graduating several seniors last year, the current team features only three seniors, as underclassmen have stepped up and played big minutes.

“We have a young team. I think that’s where some of our frustration comes because some of these girls haven’t played better teams or played with such passion,” Thomas said, adding a handful of girls also play on club volleyball teams.

Captains Ally Tealdi, a senior, and junior Emma Righetti are two players who live and breathe volleyball, their coach added, and they’ve set a good example on and off the court.

“Ally is probably one of the best setters in the state. She has not missed one practice. She was somebody that I leaned on at the start of practice when I got hired. I looked to her to tell me how things were going, where were people last year, and she’s really stepped up to be that leader,” Thomas said. “Emma did the same thing. She’s our upcoming senior captain. We’re trying to get her ready to be that leader and being out on the floor and being able to brush things off.

“They’ve had to come a long way. They’ve had to work hard. They’re both hardcore players and want to go to college for volleyball. They’ve really had to learn how to mentally grow as well, and they’ve done amazing in the last month of games of brushing it off and being those role models on the court.”

Winners of the regional tournaments will advance to the state championship tournament. If the Lady Miners continue to play the way they’ve been recently, a deep postseason run is within reach, Thomas said.

“My favorite is ‘don’t get bitter, get better.’ Just relax and play our game. We have the skills, it’s all there, but we have to have that chemistry when we’re on the court, and state will be right there for us,” she said of her message to the team heading into the weekend tournament.

Other than Tealdi and Emma Righetti, the Lady Miners team is Clara Kunz, Rylan Righetti, Bryn Geiger, Emery Berry, Zoe Rommel, Katie Cahalane, Thea Rommel, Tatum Tice, Kassidy Atherton, Isla Silva, Pippa Gorraiz and Roslyn Homer.