A changing of the guard in volleyball
On Sept. 13, I was starting to interview Eagle Valley volleyball’s Kelsey Foster after the Devils dropped Palisade in four game when she asked me, “So do you think we can beat Battle Mountain?”
The birthday girl ” she turned 18 that day ” was referring to a column I wrote in August about the upcoming season that said Eagle Valley could contend in they got together as a team. Too many years, I’d seen a lot of athletic talent from Eagle Valley, only to see the Devils underachieve.
I candidly replied, “If you guys play like you did in the first game, no, but if you play like you did in the final three, yes.”
That seemed to satisfy Foster and she and the Devils went out three days later and knocked off Battle Mountain in three tight sets as the power balance of the 4A Slope changed subtlety.
Eagle Valley volleyball exemplified the team concept this fall. There wasn’t a superstar. There wasn’t a eye-popping hitter as the Devils’ rivals always seem to have (Crystin Rodrick, Devon Abbott and Anna Padget-Shields, etc.).
The Devils seemed to move as one unit and always found a way to get the job done. Not only did they wrest the Slope crown away from Battle Mountain, but they just kept going like the Energizer bunny.
Whitney VanVoorst blew out her ACL on Sept. 30. When we heard the news, Ian Smith, our sports writer, and I braced for the worst. We thought Eagle Valley, as most teams would be, was in trouble. The Devils could afford to bow to Battle Mountain, which did happen, but we both thought they would lose a match or two down the stretch, lose the league title and then fade to black in districts somewhere on the Front Range.
What the heck do sports writers know?
Well, actually, Ian does know something ” come to think about it, a lot of things ” but I digress. He said in our recent Sports Blender (always available on vaildaily.com ” shameless plug) that the VanVoorst injury seemed to bring the Devils together. And further, with no one primary offensive threat, Eagle Valley diversified and was difficult to defense as a result.
Well put, Ian.
So as a result, I was covering the league-champion Devils down in Gypsum, thank you very much, in the District 7 Tournament two weekends ago. I think the district games finally ended 10 minutes ago, but it was worth it. The Devils kept coming after five games with Glenwood Springs, four with Delta, five with Cortez and four with Mullen and finally a ticket to regionals.
Lots of credit goes to the players, and the coach should take a bow. Shawn Weatherred’s excruciatingly boring, from media standpoint, “one point at time” focus which he drilled into his team was spot-on.
Regionals Saturday didn’t go as planned as Eagle Valley’s magic carpet ride ended. The Denver Coliseum would have been a way to end the season, but it was a great ride.
The sky is falling. The sky is falling. Battle Mountain volleyball didn’t make state for the first time since 2004.
It happens, kids. Just like their counterparts on the soccer pitch, the Huskies need to understand that you’re not going to win league and go to state every year. A 15-7 season is really good, honest.
The Huskies had only two seniors ” Padget-Shields, who assumed the obligatory monster-hitter role well in 2008, and Kelsey Plath, who is probably diving all over the gym still as I type this. This was a young team, and not the veteran-heavy squad Battle Mountain has had the last three seasons.
This is a very talented team and will continue to be in the future.
Another thing I really liked this year was that Brian Doyon seems to be evolving as a coach. For the last two years, the guy was a drill sergeant.
In 2006, it was with good reason. That team was loaded and a tough approach was needed to keep it on the road to a state title. In 2007, I thought it was a little much, and the team was a too tight going into the postseason.
Make no mistake, I think Doyon is great coach. I like the fact the he demands hard work out of female athletes at Battle Mountain, something which is sorely missing in other girls sports in Eagle-Vail. But you’ve got to change with your personnel, and by and large, Doyon did in 2008.
I, ever a loyal fan of the San Francisco 49ers, love needling Vail Mountain coach Mike Garvey when his team beats a bunch of Cowboys ” like Plateau Valley and Meeker.
“As long as the Gore Rangers are winning,” joked Garvey, who is a Dallas Cowboys fan on Sundays.
VMS did in fact take out the Cowboys and the Gore Rangers’ match against Meeker was the best volleyball I saw this year. As I’ve discussed, it’s tough moving up a classification, as VMS has did in 2006. As Hans and Franz said on the old “Saturday Night Live” skit, “Remember me now and hear me later,” the win over Meeker will be a milestone as the Gore Rangers continue their rise in the 2A Slope.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to beat Vail Christian during the regular season if you’re in East Vail. It also doesn’t hurt to have a few more home games as well. VMS was 6-0 in the Garven this year.
Speaking of beating your archrival, Vail Christian ended on a high note by knocking off VMS at districts. Just as importantly, the Saints held their own in their first year of 2A play.
Like Battle Mountain, this was a young team with just three seniors (Michelle Disher, Sammy Francis and Allie Parker). Timeout ” no more Parkers playing volleyball? What’s a sports editor to do? Sammy’s a senior? (Phew, I still have Dakota.)
Coach Cathy Alexander knew she had a rebuilding project, but not ever team with R-label gets to double-digits in wins. Very nice.
And just in case I get a little lonely because I don’t have my usual siblings at Vail Christian, here come Bella Cuomo, Kylie Alexander, Brenna Barry and Ashlyn Gruber.
I’m feeling much better now, thank you.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.