Lady Devils are All In — EVHS enters Colorado State Volleyball Tournament as a No. 2 seed
GYPSUM — As they hit the court today at the Denver Coliseum, the Lady Devils volleyball team is all in.
That’s been the team motto this year, and nobody believes in what that means and how it is demonstrated more than first-year coach Jackie Rindy.
“It’s been such an tremendous year. This is an incredible group of girls, no doubt about it,” said Rindy. “They set the bar high, right off the top of the bat.”
Rindy is a valley native and played high school volleyball for the Battle Mountain Huskies. “It was a whole different sport back then,” she said with a laugh.
Rindy found her way back to the sport through her daughter Jaimee, who played club volleyball and then high school volleyball for the Lady Devils. As her daughter became more and more involved in the sport, so did Rindy. She eventually became director of Vail Volleyball Club and a high school volleyball official. As for Jaimee, she graduated from Eagle Valley in 2015 and now plays volleyball for Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The Rindy women were at the King of the Mountain Tournament this summer when Rindy learned that Eagle Valley didn’t have a volleyball coach lined up for the fall. The next day Jaimee told her mom she needed to step up to coach the team.
“She said to me ‘Mom, you can’t let them down. They need a good coach; they are too talented,’” said Rindy.
So, although she had never coached a competitive squad, Rindy reached out to Eagle Valley High School Athletic Director Tami Payne to see about the job.
“I asked if they needed someone to coach who didn’t need a job or housing,” said Rindy.
Not surprisingly, the answer was a resounding “Yes!”
Rindy’s first task was to take the team to a camp in July. That was the start of what has evolved into something very special.
“Girls need to bond before they will fight for each other. You need to understand that as a coach,” she said.
She credits team captains Kylie Martin and Molly Jewett with leading the way.
“They are part of the reason why I threw my name into the hat,” said Rindy. “They provided the girls with a direction that was all in for the season.”
Back to that catch phrase, the team’s all in motto works on a couple of levels. While it signifies the team’s sense of commitment and urgency, it’s also an acronym for the team’s vision:
A: Accept the role I have been given today.
L: Leave the last point behind.
L: Letting my team down is not an option.
I: Insist on 100 percent from myself, my teammates and my coaches.
“There you go. Every day that’s been on the board. When we have had a great day, we go back to it. When we have had a bad day, we went back to it,” said Rindy
More good than bad
The Lady Devils’ record from 2016 speaks for itself. The team has only lost three matches all year. They stormed through the Western Slope League with a 12-0 record and only lost two sets during the entire season of league play.
Rindy believes the team’s season-defining performance came during the second set of the match against cross-county rival Battle Mountain. The Lady Devils had fallen behind by 12 points.
“I called a time out and said ‘This is not who you are. This is not what all in means. Fix it.’ And they did. They came back and won it,” said Rindy.
A second gut-check happened when the team faced Evergreen in a pre-regional match. Evergreen was a familiar opponent for the team, having lost to them in the 2015 regional.
When the team lost to Evergreen in that match, Rindy figured it was a good lesson.
“They needed to taste that,” she said. “Then they came in to regional and they knew they weren’t going to lose. No one wanted to let the team down.”
The Lady Devils enter today’s pool play as the No. 2 seed in the state tournament. Today they will face Niwot and Holy Family. The winner of the pool will advance to the semifinals.
Speaking of finals, the event favorite is Lewis Palmer, the No. 1 seed and a team that is nationally ranked. If the Lady Devils make it to that game, then Rindy figures her team will be ready for the moment.
“I tell them that they don’t carry any pressure,” she said. “The Western Slope never gets the respect we deserve.”
Eagle Valley’s student body and staff sent off the team with style Thursday with a spirit tunnel and an EMS escort out of town. Rindy said enthusiasm for the team has been growing as the Lady Devils racked up wins.
“We expect a huge crowd in Denver,” she said, noting that the school is taking 50 kids in a spirit bus and lots of students and families are planning to make the trip.
“The girls know this is bigger than just them,” she said.
At the same time, this season has been an intimate affair between the players and their coaches. Music blared during practice and players dance on the sidelines.
“Our practices are so much fun,” said Rindy. “If you don’t have fun, you lose a bunch of the girls’ personalities.”
And as everyone knows, winning is a lot more fun than losing.
“When the girls come into the gym, they have a job to do,” said Rindy. “They leave everything at the door that doesn’t benefit the group.”
On the eve of the state tournament, Rindy said she feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to share her love of volleyball with the team. “This sport had done so much for my family, so much for my daughter,” she said. “I see it doing that for a lot of these athletes also.”
She is grateful for the team’s commitment and success and for the lessons she has learned this season.
“The thing I learned the most is that it is all about the kids,” she said. “If everyone remembers that, good things happen.”