Upon further review … Eagle Valley Devils spikers win league title | VailDaily.com

Upon further review … Eagle Valley Devils spikers win league title

Eagle Valley celebrates the the match-winning point against Steamboat Springs on Thursday, Oct. 26. The Devils beat the Sailors in five sets to cap an improbable, controversial and mathematically-challenging run to a $A Western Slope title.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Reports of Eagle Valley volleyball's demise were premature.

Glenwood Springs apparently jumped the gun on claiming its first 4A Slope title in 12 years on Saturday, Oct. 21, when the Demons defeated Steamboat Springs in four games to finish its league slate at 10-2.

The only problem is that the Devils also had a chance to finish at 10-2 as well, which they did on Thursday, Oct. 26, in an absolute marathon up in Steamboat Springs, a team that plays a prominent role in this saga, 27-25, 25-15, 22-25, 18-25, 15-13.

And with that victory, the Devils are actually your 2017 4A Western Slope champions, and back-to-back champs, as well.

Higher math

Consider this Slope Volleyball Tiebreakers 101.

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• The first tiebreaker is league record, which seems kind of obvious, but accept that as reality and move onward. Both the Demons and Devils are 10-2.

• Tiebreaker No. 2 is head-to-head in league matches between the tied teams. Eagle Valley beat Glenwood, 25-23, 25-17, 25-19, on Saturday, Sept. 30, in Gypsum. The Demons returned the favor, 27-25, 26-24, 25-20, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in its home gym, so the teams are still deadlocked.

• The third decider is set percentage in head-to-head matches. Since the Devils and Demons were 3-3 on that count, this is becoming a nasty knot.

• Tiebreaker No. 4 produced the happy ending for all those in Gypsum and that is point differential in head-to-head matches. The Devils beat Glenwood by a total of 16 points in its win over the Demons. Glenwood beat Eagle Valley by nine points during the second match. Sixteen is more than nine — title to Eagle Valley.

Rebounding from The Week of Awfulness

What makes this title so sweet for the Devils (14-6) is that they seemed to have played its way out of the league chase with two wrenching losses, starting with that defeat in Glenwood. The Devils compounded matters with a loss to Palisade in Gypsum on Thursday, Oct. 12.

Eagle Valley no longer controlled its destiny.

"(Our team) knew that they had given away the match to Glenwood," Devils coach Jackie Rindy said. "That was completely unforced errors. Now we needed help to get back into the league race. Our focus was now on (seeding for) regionals. We weren't worrying about the league."

But since the Slope can be wacky, as this episode has illustrated, the cosmic tumblers locked into place. While the Devils took care of business, knocking off Grand Valley, Battle Mountain and Rifle, Palisade lost to Steamboat on Saturday, Oct. 14, and then Glenwood beat Palisade on Thursday, Oct. 19.

Steamboat beating Palisade was the more improbable of the two results which needed to happen, and that was sort of a good-news/bad-news scenario for the Devils. The good news was that the Devils got the help. The bad news was that Steamboat was a clearly improved team that the Devils had to play on the road in the league finale.

And Thursday, Oct. 26's match up north was an epic.

"We won the first two sets and they came back," Rindy said. "This was the first time we went to five sets all season. The girls realized they couldn't give away any points."

Now, that should be kind of obvious by now as the league title came down to point differential, but that's not important right now.

The Devils survived the fifth set, 15-13, and are still on top of the heap in the Slope.

On to Evergreen

With the league title in the collective back pocket, the Devils head to Evergreen on Saturday, Oct. 28. There they will play the hosts (13-7) and The Classical Academy, also 13-7.

Before this weekend's action, the Devils were No. 21 in the rating-percentage index, and these two matches are an opportunity to improve their computer numbers for regional seeding.

The RPI's top 12 teams host regionals on Saturday, Nov. 4, and moving up nine spots is probably not in the cards for Eagle Valley. But avoiding having to be in the same regional as teams Lewis Palmer (No. 1 in the RPI), Valor Christian (2), Niwot (3) or D'Evelyn (4) is a powerful motivation.

This weekend's tournament is a three-team, round-robin, and there is a possibility for all three squads finishing at 1-1, which, yes, would invoke more tiebreakers.

Please don't go there.

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