Fun is the goal: Eagle Valley starts state tournament Friday | VailDaily.com

Fun is the goal: Eagle Valley starts state tournament Friday

GYPSUM — The Devils do not travel without their tunes.

Eagle Valley volleyball left on Thursday afternoon from Gypsum for this weekend's 4A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum with all the bells and whistles.

The Eagle Valley student body formed a tunnel to send the team off. The bus, bedecked with the players' names, got the official escort out of town with the sheriff and the fire department.

Going the whole nine yards is appropriate. This is Eagle Valley's first trip to the Barn on Brighton since 2010.

But the Devils also made sure they packed right.

"They've actually got a Bose speaker with them," Eagle Valley coach Jackie Rindy said. "We will have our music."

Recommended Stories For You

Have fun … or else

There is always preparation for state competition, and those details follow below. Yes, you scout teams and analyze patterns, but, regardless of the sport, when it comes to playing the elite, it's more about your own team.

For Eagle Valley, owning a perfect 12-0 mark as 4A Slope champions, going to state with a sparkling 22-3 record and being ranked No. 2 in the state are all wonderful things.

Yet to have success in the 4A tournament, it's all about the Devils having fun. And that's where that speaker enters the picture. When the Eagle Valley is loose, and singing along to its music — mostly an '80s mix, if the season has been any indication — the team plays well.

So crank the speaker, and get down with M.C. Hammer, Journey, and everything else on the playlist.

To that end, even though the Devils enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed, coach Rindy considers her team to be the underdog.

"There's no pressure on them," she said. "I've told them to enjoy the experience and go and upset some of those Front Range teams. I do (consider us underdogs). Those teams get to play a lot bigger competition all year."

This is an application of The Have Fun Principle. Eagle Valley can play with big squads as illustrated by wins over Fruita Monument, Montrose and Evergreen. As long as the Devils are having fun, Rindy's content to roll the dice and see what happens.

Honor among coaches

Eagle Valley opens the tournament with pool play, facing Niwot at roughly 11 a.m. and Holy Family somewhere around 5 p.m. (As always for state, the matches start at 8 a.m., and the usual calculation is 90 minutes per match. Your mileage may vary. If you're going, then it's best to be early, just in case.)

As for a scouting reports, well, enter Battle Mountain coach Jason Fitzgerald, whose Huskies played Niwot on Saturday.

The Cougars are big, but the Devils aren't exactly a bunch of shrinking violets. And, by the way, the Devils' Emma Lassa plays club ball with three members of the Niwot team, so Eagle Valley should have a good scouting report.

Holy Family, whose major strength is its block, happened to play Steamboat Springs in regionals and Sailors coach Wendy Hall has briefed Rindy. If you haven't figured this out, Western Slope pride trumps regular-season rivalry when it comes to state.

"I talked to both Jason and Wendy, and they've been very good about sharing information, telling us to look for," Rindy said. "We would do that for any Western Slope team."

Watch your ankles

The last time Eagle Valley went to state, the Devils won their four-team pool, a part of the old eight-team state format, before Shelby Wright went down with an ankle injury in an eventual semifinal loss to Roosevelt.

We only bring up Wright's ankle injury as a segue to the rash of such injuries the Devils have had this year. Setter Molly Jewett's ankle is all healed as is Lassa's. No one else is allowed to hurt their ankles or any other joints this weekend.

With state now a 12-team field, divided in four pools of three, the Devils need to knock off Niwot and Holy Family to win Pool II and advance to Saturday's semifinals. If seeding holds to form — and there are absolutely no guarantees about such — No. 1 Lewis-Palmer would face No. 4 Montrose, while the Devils would face defending state champion, Cheyenne Mountain, the No. 2-seed.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

If you go

What: The 4A state volleyball tournament.

Where: The Denver Coliseum — take Interstate 70 east, see the Coliseum on your right and hook a right.

When: The Devils face Niwot today at approximately 11 a.m., and Holy Family at roughly 5 p.m.

Format: The four pool winners in Class 4A advance to the semifinals and finals on Saturday