Vail Mountain School volleyball heads to state, faces Holly in opener | VailDaily.com

Vail Mountain School volleyball heads to state, faces Holly in opener

Welcome to the show, Vail Mountain School volleyball.

For the first time since 2005, the Gore Rangers are at state, playing in Thursday, Nov. 8's lidlifter at 8 a.m., at the Denver Coliseum against Holly.

A few things have changed at the state tournament since you were here last in 2005, like the number of teams (now 12, as opposed to eight) and the actual format.

Here's the rundown:

The format

Say goodbye to pool play with the winners of round-robins advancing to the semifinals. With pool play came meaningless games at the Coliseum. Example: Team A starts three-team division play with a 2-0 record. With Team A having already clinched the berth to the semis, Teams B and C have traveled hundreds of miles to play a meaningless match.

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Thus, in 2018, CHSAA has given us a double-elimination tournament — through the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 10.

No. 8 VMS (20-5) takes on the ninth-ranked Holly Wildcats at — yes — 8 a.m. on Thursday or 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9, for the Pesso family in Australia. The winner advances to take on No. 1 Yuma at 12:30 p.m. in the "winners bracket," while the loser plays on Friday at 11 a.m. against Lyons, Rye or Denver Christian in the "contenders bracket." (Yes, possessives be darned.)

VMS would obviously prefer to be in the winners bracket — yes, quite the insight one would expect from the Vail Daily.

The Gore Rangers previously have been to state in 2001, 2002 and 2005 as a 1A squad. The 2001 team was the only to advance to the semifinals, yet the 2002 edition was likely the best in school history. Perhaps, my favorite VMS upper school English teacher, Miss Littman, can say a word or two about that season. (By the way, my favorite middle school English teacher in East Vail is Mrs. Kelly, whom I will not call Mrs. Canada. Stop growing up into responsible adults, ladies.)

The field

This is the state tournament, so, with apologies to Garrison Keillor, all the women are strong, the men handsome and the children above average.

The No. 10 Lyons Lions (17-8) — not very creative — are the defending champs. They defeated Yuma, this year's No. 1 seed at 24-1, in four games.

Denver Christian (24-1) is the No. 2 team in the field. The Crusaders beat Paonia to get to Denver.

Meeker (25-0) is the No. 3 seed, and VMS would doubtless like to see those Cowboys again.

Wiggins (22-2) rounds out the top four at the 2A tournament. Wiggins lost to the redundant Lyons Lions in last year's semis.

One of the cool things about state volleyball is learning Colorado geography. Holly, VMS' opener, is located a stone's throw from Kansas on U.S. Highway 400. Vail Christian football made the trip there for the state quarterfinals in 2003, so be grateful everyone's meeting at the Coliseum.

Holly's 1-2 against 2A state teams with a split against Swink and a loss to Rye. In other words, the Wildcats are good, but not immortal.

The Coliseum

Yes, VMS' players have played club and been in big arenas with multiple games taking place simultaneously, but going to the Denver Coliseum is still a different experience.

(By the way, directions are easy. Interstate 70 to Brighton Boulevard, exit 275B, and the big building is on your right. Even Freud, who has gotten lost in his own apartment, can find it.)

And while the 8 a.m. start time on Thursday seems to be a conspiracy by CHSAA against Eagle County teams at state — Vail Christian (multiple times) and Battle Mountain (2014) — it could prove a beneficial to the Gore Rangers, first-timers at state.

At 8 a.m., teams have more times for warmups and the arena is not yet a full blast, complete with marching bands. This should help in the adjustment process.

While the Gore Rangers will doubtless be scouting other teams, leaving the Denver Coliseum and its cacophony is good idea.

Oh, yeah, VMS

It's still a volleyball match, ladies — dig, pass and spike. You can do the "Hoosiers" thing with a tape measure. The court size is still the same. Maybe, Mike Imperi can play the role of Gene Hackman?

My major volleyball concern for the Gore Rangers is a diversification of attack. Colorado Preps has a nice statistical breakdown of each of the 12 teams' leaders in assorted categories, and only Lyons and Limon seem as dependent on their top outside-hitter as the Gore Rangers are with Sarah Evans.

Of course, there is a time to ride your horse, as VMS did in Game 5 with Evans during the final five points against Dawson during the Region 8 Tournament, but the Gore Rangers will need contributions from everyone. As always, your mileage may vary.

The good news is that no one expects VMS as a No. 8 seed to be a player at state. Yuma, Denver Christian, Meeker and Wiggins are the favorites.

Go play and let it rip.