Devils seniors will lead playoff charge
GYPSUM – If you’re looking for an indicator of how coach Karl Talcott’s Eagle Valley volleyball team will do this year with the jump up to the 4A Slope, look no further than August 30, 2003.In a season-opening tournament on Glenwood’s home floor, last season’s 3A Devils took the 4A Demons to five games before falling in the final frame. After that match, the Demons, led by the Rocky Mountain News’ 4A Player of the Year Amber Sutherland, went on to run the table all the way up to the state semifinals before they lost to Sterling. Of their 29 wins on the season, only one other school other than Eagle Valley was able to push Glenwood to five games in a match.Neither Talcott, nor his returning class of six seniors have forgotten that slugfest against the Demons last August as they prepare for this season.Yes, Talcott expects there to be some growing pains as a result of better competition and a tougher schedule in the higher state classification. He openly admits that his team’s annual goal at making a state run will be much tougher, too.But, with only one starter lost to graduation and six seniors coming back, including all-state outside hitter Kenzie Shreeve, the underlying sentiment in Gypsum is apparent: the Devils intend to compete with the best that 4A has to offer and won’t be making any excuses if they don’t.”We have to try and prepare for bigger, faster, better teams,” Talcott said. “We have to be ready for a season that has fewer, quote, easy games. We’ll have to be prepared to suffer some losses and learn from them and try to better ourselves. We’ll have a much tougher postseason than in years past. This league is much stronger in the top half of the league than the 3A league was and we’ll have to be prepared for that.”
The big gunShreeve, in her fourth year as a starter, is the sun in the Devils’ universe. The 6-foot-1 standout led the team in kills and blocks last season and has a good shot at all-state honors again if she has another solid year.Just like last year, the objective on offense will be the same: get the ball to Kenzie above the net and let her do the rest.Whitney Donahue, the team’s assists leader in 2003, will be the one most responsible for that task and should have another all-league year from her setter spot.Defensive specialist/outside hitter Shannon Aragon, is primed for another big season as well after making a name for herself last year as a pinpoint server and a solid passer. The teams other three seniors – outside hitter Mariah Scott, right side hitter Jessica Stiles and middle blocker Mandy Fisher – are also key pieces of the puzzle. Talcott, along with his seniors, know they have a full clip of ammunition heading into the 2004 campaign, but they aren’t taking anything for granted.
“The seniors have shown great leadership,” Talcott said. “They’ve really amped up their intensity and their enthusiasm for working hard and they know that’s it’s going to be tougher.” Added Donahue, “Even though we do have six returning seniors, we need to make sure we’re still working harder. We need to be more scrappy. We’re not taking it for granted, despite the fact that we’re coming back with a loaded team.”The unexpectedDepending on how you look at it, the Devils’ biggest advantage or disadvantage heading into this season is that they don’t know what to expect.New conference foes Glenwood and Battle Mountain were the only two schools that the team squared off against last year. Everybody else on the conference slate will be a question mark until the Devils get them on the court for the first go-round of the season.Talcott sees the unknown as a plus.
“You could argue that the soft schedule in the past might have hurt us,” he said. “It might have made us a little more overconfident at times. I look forward to being challenged, with the emphasis being ‘Are we learning? Are we improving? Are we actually going to be ready to make a run at the postseason in this league.'”Aragon said she thinks she and her teammates have been working harder this preseason solely because they don’t exactly know what lies ahead.The leap to 4A could be easier than they think it might be. It could also be tougher.”It’s good that we don’t know because that’s what is challenging us and making us work harder,” she said. “We just want to make sure we’re learning and that we’re working together everyday to get better. We just want to stay focused and concentrate on our main goal and work together. We understand that we are stepping up a level, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.”Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com