DENVER — Do keep in mind that any volleyball season that ends on the floor of the Denver Coliseum is a good one.
At the same time, anyone rooting for Vail Christian during its match Saturday morning at the 1A state tournament in Denver against Dove Creek likely wanted to stand up and yell, “Who are those people in the navy blue uniforms and what have they done with the Saints?”
Yes, Dove Creek played well, and all credit should be given to the Bulldogs, but the Saints “picked” the wrong day to have seemingly everything go wrong in a quick season-ending, 25-4, 25-11, 25-13 defeat.
“Someone’s got to lose, and, today, Dove Creek was a much better team,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “I think (we) were just too uptight, realizing that (we) actually could beat Dove Creek if we played like we had, maybe not like (Friday against Kit Carson), but like we did last weekend against La Veta last weekend (at regionals) when we were firing on all cylinders. We had eight people firing on everything. Today, we weren’t firing. It happens.”
Alexander put her finger on what was so mystifying about Saturday. Vail Christian was not playing a Fleming like in years past. (Fleming seems to be Vail Christian’s inevitable torturer at state. The Wildcats always seem to have six 6-footers, and Vail Christian would have no chance of matching up physically.) The Saints had seen the Bulldogs two weeks ago and had a plan. Vail Christian was going to play the stout defense at the net it had played all year and then watch for endless tips over the net.
Given how well the Saints played all year, with a 19-7 overall record and an 8-2 mark in a predominantly 2A league, it seemed entirely possible. (It’s worth noting that the Saints’ two league losses this year were to teams which qualified for the 2A state tournament, Paonia and Meeker.) However, the element of the unexpected that attracts us to all forms of sports just seemed to fall on Vail Christian in a great heap during a particularly cruel twist of timing.
Every Loss is Painful
If it’s any consolation, it did happen to other teams this weekend. On the court in the Coliseum to Vail Christian’s left, Paonia, the 2A Slope league champions, was 25-0 and entered the 2A state tournament as the No. 4 seed. The Eagles were two-and-done this weekend. Discovery Canyon football was the No. 1 seed in 3A football, and, as we know from filling out NCAA brackets each March, 16s never beat No. 1s. Pueblo East 47, Discovery Canyon 13, on Saturday.
The above examples probably don’t help — right now. It hurts and will for a while.
Nonetheless, with the passage of some time, the Saints will realize that 2013 was a tremendous season.
“There’s 50-plus teams that didn’t get here,” Alexander said. “The girls did an amazing job just to get here. It’s a long season and it’s a long road. They worked hard all year. They were as positive as they could be.”
They’ll Be Around Next Year
It’s also worth remembering that the majority of Vail Christian’s team is made of underclassmen.
“We have a lot of kids with a lot of experience at a young age,” Alexander said. “That’s a good thing. We will definitely use it. ... But you know, the longer these kids have been playing together as freshmen, sophomores and juniors and experiencing a higher level like this is definitely a good thing. I know Remy (Beveridge). I know Taylor (Alexander). I know Jessie (Hartley). I know those girls are not just satisfied with just being here. I think it will be great motivation.”
Leaders on, off the court
Coach Alexander bore the postgame well, yet there was an understandable hitch in her voice when talking about her four seniors.
“Krissy (Kristen Currey) has been here at the Coliseum with us three times,” Alexander said. “Celia (Smith) was a move-in and worked hard to become a really strong player. Bella (McCormick) is a fabulous passer who worked hard to become a great libero. Amie (Hixon) is just one of those girls that everyone loves and is just a team leader on the court and off it.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and firstname.lastname@example.org.