EDWARDS — It is time to head to the Barn on Brighton.
Welcome to The Big Show as Vail Christian volleyball heads to the 1A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum today and Saturday.
The Saints (18-6) are one of 12 teams — and, yes, this is a new format since last they went — left standing in their class.
For those who have followed Vail Christian at state, in a development that should surprise no one, it is starting with an 8 a.m. game today against Kit Carson, and faces Dove Creek on Saturday at roughly 9:30 a.m., for Pool I play.
For those who are familiar with two four-team pools at state, CHSAA expanded the tournament this past year to 12 teams with four groups of three, with the winners of each group advancing to Saturday afternoon’s semifinals and, hopefully, that evening’s finals at 7.
The Saints are No. 8 and start with No. 12 Kit Carson, which, for the geographically inclined, is east of Colorado Springs, 41 miles from Kansas on Highway 40. The Wildcats went 16-8 as well and were 2-2 in the High Plains League, whose champion is Eads, the No. 5 in the tourney.
Kit Carson is 2-3 against teams in the 1A tournament, splitting with Eads and No. 9 Stratton, and falling to No. 6 Flagler in three. From the little scouting Saints coach Cathy Alexander has been able to do, the Wildcats are not an overly-large team, but are very scrappy. The two teams should be evenly matched on that count.
Dove Creek (28-0) nabbed the No. 1 spot in the tournament. While the Bulldogs may be a mystery to most everyone else assembled in Denver, they are not to Vail Christian.
The two teams met on Oct. 26 in the district final in Olathe with Dove Creek, winning, 3-1 (25-17, 17-25, 25-22, 25-21).
Coach Alexander, with a young team, has tried to keep things “normal” in practice. The Saints, however, have practiced outdoors to change the depth perception, which is always a challenge at the Coliseum. They have also practiced the shorter warm-up sessions that come with the state tournament.
In their four previous appearances at the state tournament, the Saints have progressed from being happy to be there to winning games within matches to winning actual matches. This year, they hope for the next step.
“They want to break (out of) pool,” Alexander said. “That would be big.”
With more than 24 hours between pool matches, the Saints spend the morning at the Coliseum, watching Dove Creek play Kit Carson as well as checking out Pool IV since that group’s winner play’s Pool I’s victor in the semifinals. By seed, the Pool IV favorite is Fleming.
Sports editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org