Devils get revenge against Hotchkiss; repeat as district champs
After a long, draining district tournament at Central High School in Grand Junction on Friday and Saturday, the Eagle Valley volleyball team is finally coming home.
Back to their home floor, that is, as the Devils exacted revenge on the Hotchkiss Bulldogs Saturday, in the District 2 final, to repeat as district champs, and assure themselves homecourt advantage as hosts of next weekend’s regional tournament.
The Devils toppled the second-seeded Bulldogs in four games, winning 25-13, 25-21, 24-26, 25-16.
“Of course, every team wants to be district champs,” said Devils’ senior captain Trista Sandoval. “Homecourt advantage is always a plus. To be able to play at home on the floor where we practice, where we know we have a whole bunch of support – it really helps us out.”
The No. 1-seeded Devils began their district run by winning all three of their pool-play matches, beginning with a three-game sweep of No. 8-seed Olathe on Friday night (25-11, 25-22, 25-16). On Saturday, they started off the day with another sweep against No. 5-seed Cedaredge (25-17, 25-21, 26-24) before running smackdab into a dogfight with No. 4 seed Roaring Fork.
The Rams took the Devils all the way to the fifth game of the match, but we’re unable to pull of the upset in the tiebreaker, losing 15-11.
“Boy, I can’t say enough about how well [the Rams] play in an end-of-the-season situation,” said Devils coach Karl Talcott. “They saved their best volleyball for the final weekend. We have a tough time with them. They do some things that give us problems.”
Emerging from pool play unscathed, the Devils took on No. 3 Basalt in their first crossover match. Eagle Valley routed the Longhorns, 25-16, in the first game and then held on to win by 25-22 in the next two games to complete the three-game sweep and set up the grudge match against No. 2-seed Hocthkiss.
At stake were a number of things – a district title, homecourt advantage in the regional – but most importantly revenge for Eagle Valley, whose last loss had come courtesy of the Bulldogs in a slugfest on Sept. 26 when the Bulldogs beat the Devils on their home floor, 3-2.
The Devils were game for a little payback.
“We knew we had to come out strong. They thought that they could beat us, because we lost to them on their home court,” said Sandoval. “We said as a team, after that match, that we will take them at districts on a neutral court. There was a little revenge factor.”
In the biggest match of the day, Eagle Valley relied on its biggest weapon, junior outside hitter Kenzie Shreeve, who unloaded for 36 kills and eight aces against the Bulldogs.
“Kenzie just went off in the final,” said Talcott. “I think both of us expected to be the teams to meet in the final. We had a little extra incentive, because we wanted some revenge, and it was a neutral sight.”
The Devils steamed past Hotchkiss in games one and two and appeared to be closing in on a convincing three-game sweep, up 22-19 in the third, before the Bulldogs battled back to win, 24-26.
They wouldn’t even get close in game four.
Eagle Valley closed out the Bulldogs with precision, 25-16.
“We feel like we are rolling into regionals. It actually turns out to be very important because if you finish second in the district, you have to go on the road,” said Talcott. “It’s not easy anyway, but it makes it a little easier playing at home.”
Sandoval and Kelli Verderber had seven kills a piece in the final, Mariah Scott had 12 digs and junior setter Whitney Donahue had 52 assists.
“It was all working together, and making the plays that we needed to make. Just executing on every ball,” said Scott. “It’s one of the most awesome things you can do, winning your regional and getting homecourt advantage.”
Nate Peterson is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608 or via email@example.com.