Huskies sweep Sailors in Steamboat Springs | VailDaily.com

Huskies sweep Sailors in Steamboat Springs

John F. Russell
Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After spending the majority of the first part of the season on the road, members of the Steamboat Springs volleyball team were looking forward to getting back in their own gym Thursday, as well as getting back to the team's winning ways.

But visiting Battle Mountain had other ideas, and it took only three games (25-22, 25-16 and 25-19) for the Huskies to steal the thunder from the hometown crowd.

"We were excited to come, knowing that Steamboat was the defending league champs, knowing they put that away in our gym last year, and it was a motivator," Huskies coach Jason Fitzgerald said. "But we love to come play here. Outside of our own gym, this is our favorite place to play. I think the environment here helps us. The louder and more into it the crowd gets, the more into it we get … this gym always brings out the best in us."

The Huskies' attitude in Thursday's match came as no surprise to the Sailors' leading hitter, Anna Allsberry, who finished the night with six kills.

"I think Battle Mountain is always fired up," she said. "It was tough, because we all wanted it, but we needed to get our heads into the game and finish it out. We were all working hard. We've been working hard in practices to get tough, but, for sure, we need to find a little more grit."

After the game, Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said she felt as though her team was, at times, competitive in the match, but when Steamboat had an opportunity to take control of a game, the team struggled in pressure situations. The Sailors had seven missed serves in Thursday's match, several of them coming with a chance to take the upper hand.

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"We are going to have to create some pressure situations in practice," Hall said after the game. "We have been trying to do it, but obviously, I haven't found the right formula, because we are not getting better in those situations.

"We are missing serves at critical times. We are not missing serves when it is not as critical. The serves we are missing is the first serve in a rotation, serves after time outs by the other team … we are missing serves when the game is tied or we have a chance at set points or match points."

The Huskies took advantage of the Sailors' mistakes at those critical points and got plenty of offense from outside hitter Avery Weaver, who finished the night with 14 kills, and opposite hitter Taylor Keep, who added nine kills. But Fitzgerald said the key to his team's success really came on defense.

"We have put a lot of emphasis on our defensive speed and transition speed," Fitzgerald said. "That helped."

Steamboat was led by Allsbury, who had six kills in the match. Middle blocker Este Wilkinson added five kills, and outside hitter Micah Feeley finished with four.

The Sailors hope to put the match behind them as quickly as possible as they begin preparations to face Glenwood Springs on Saturday. The match will begin at 1 p.m. in the Kelly Meek Gymnasium.

"I don't think it is a setback," Hall said of the game. "I still think our players battled hard tonight, and they had some good points. It's not a setback, because we are not winning yet. The positives we took away from last weekend did not include winning. We had one win out of four tries. We need to take the next step and start converting some of these sets … into wins."

The loss was the Sailors' first in the league, as the team's record fell to 4-6 for the season and 0-1 in league play. The Huskies improved to 2-3 and 2-2.

"We wanted to keep pace in the league," Fitzgerald said. "That puts us at 2-2, and at least we stay in the conversation.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966