EDWARDS — The Celia Smith Experiment seems to be working.
The Vail Christian senior moved from outside hitter to middle blocker, and she showcased her talents at her new position on Thursday evening as the Saints won their home opener, 25-18, 25-19, 25-16, over Soroco at the Wheeler Athletic Center in Edwards.
“It’s really different to start, but it’s good,” Smith said. “I actually like to block, and I get to hit.”
That hitting was on display in a big way, and it gave the Saints (3-2) a lift on a night when they were without senior setter Kristen Currey, who is out of town because of family commitments.
“I’m very happy with Celia,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “She’s making the transition very well, and, after the first game here, we got her with the sets into the groove. She is very talented 1-on-1. If they’re only blocking her with one player, she can hit around anything.”
Jumping To The Top
A prolific track athlete — second in Colorado in pole vault and third in the high jump last spring — Smith’s hops proved too much for the visiting Rams. Another hero for Vail Christian was Jessie Hartley, who filled in for Currey at setter. Hartley had only two days of practice to adjust, but filled in admirably.
When everyone gets into place in the next few weeks — Currey will also miss Saturday’s match against Meeker, and the team is also awaiting the eligibility of transfers Baylee Wiemer and Sara Coulter on Sept. 24 — the Saints look like they will have plenty of tools to be a powerful team.
Thursday’s win also added to the momentum of Vail Christian’s weekend at the season-opening Glenwood tourney. There, the Saints started with losses to Nucla and Lutheran before beating Aspen and Roaring Fork.
It was a matter, according to Alexander, of blending the team’s four seniors with its younger players and finding everyone’s individual roles within the squad.
“One of the things we were talking about is letting each kid play the way they play, and not try to make them into something they’re not,” Alexander said.
As is often the case within the 2A Slope, this was the first of two meetings between the Saints and Rams, so Thursday was a nonleague contest. Vail Christian heads to Oak Creek on Oct. 1 for the one that really counts against Soroco.
The Rams are off to an 0-3 start, all against league opponents but not league games. The official Slope slate for them starts Sept. 14 at Plateau Valley. In the meantime, Soroco heads to Kremmling to take on West Grand on Saturday.
“They just need to get in a rhythm where they’re confident, and continue to play with that confidence,” Rams coach Jeannie Jo Logan said. “We’ve seen it from them all summer into this fall. They do a great job of playing as a team. That’s one thing I commend them on is they continue to fight together and play as a team. That takes them a long way.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.