Devils punch ticket to Denver, return to state tournament
GYPSUM — All year the Devils have been all in on earning a trip to the state tournament in Denver.
Their hard work has finally paid off after winning the 4A Region 2 tournament in Gypsum on Saturday and punching their ticket to the state tournament at the Denver Coliseum on Friday.
“All year long, the whole point was to get out of regionals,” said Devils coach Jackie Rindy before being congratulated by her brother on the Eagle Valley gymnasium floor. “This is what you coach for. You coach for days like this.”
The tears were flowing immediately after Becy Glutova put the finishing touch on a five-set thriller with Evergreen. The bench flooded to the Devils logo at midcourt to celebrate with their coach.
The Devils stopped to congratulate the Cougars, who sent the Devils packing last year and also handed the Devils one of their three losses a week ago, before erupting in excitement again.
Assistant principal Tamara Payne exploded into a double back handspring across the gym floor as the student section busted out giant inflatable volleyballs to begin filling the air.
The Devils posed for a quick photo with their trophy before releasing more roars of happiness, and some tears as well.
“There’s so much adrenaline in my body right now that I don’t even feel my sprained ankle,” said Emma Lassa, who was cleared to play Saturday morning after missing practice all week. “That’s how amazing this was. It’s just awesome.”
The No. 2 ranked Devils earned their place in Denver by defeating No. 35 Discovery Canyon in straight sets and then No. 23 Evergreen in five in front of a rowdy Eagle Valley crowd.
“We always had a team goal of all in,” Emma Lassa said. “Throughout the season, no matter what happened, we were always all in together and that’s what brought us here.”
After Eagle Valley (22-3, 12-0 4A Western Slope) took the opening set against Evergreen (12-13, 4-6 4A JeffCo), the Cougars responded by taking the next two sets and forcing a must-win fourth for the Devils.
“I expected something like this,” Rindy said. “Evergreen has been a monkey on their back for two years. We had to be confident. Going into the fourth set I told them, play your game, do your job and you’ll be fine.”
Eagle Valley did not trail at all in the fourth and fifth sets, winning 25-16 and 15-7.
A healthy dose of setter Molly Jewett to Kylie Martin, Glutova, Lassa and Teaghan Mercer proved too much for Evergreen.
“It was a great battle, and they fought hard,” said Cougars coach Jenica Watts. “You have to have a big block against Eagle Valley. You’ve got to read and move. Teams that get stuck on defense are going to have a hard time.”
Down the stretch, it was all Lassa and Glucova as the Devils jumped out to a 9-1 lead in the fifth and final set.
“When she’s on, she’s on,” Martin said of Lassa. “At the end of the game, I told her and Becy, ‘That was you guys. That was your game.’ I know we were all in it, but Becy’s serves and Emma’s hits are what put that away.”
Crafty digs by Sydney Manzanares, Jillian Byron and Haley Carpenter also helped the Devils secure their birth in the state tournament. Their dance moves also helped keep things relaxed, especially in the fourth set when they got Rindy to bust a move to a Drake song playing during a timeout.
“It’s a team. That’s the difference between all of the other years,” Rindy said.
The Devils now have a chance at bringing the first state volleyball banner back to their gym in Gypsum, and it’s their first trip to state since 2010.
“We have nothing to lose,” Martin said. “We’ve just got to go all in. We’ve never been to states in our four years.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.