Devils’ spikers oust Battle Mountain in three straight games
GYPSUM – Eagle Valley’s lone senior and captain Trista Sandoval was honored with flowers and a rousing standing ovation in front of a packed gym before Tuesday’s rivalry game against visiting Battle Mountain.
Then, after Sandoval put her flowers away, she and her teammates put the Huskies away, too, in a three-game sweep, winning 25-13, 25-19, 25-18.
“I think they played a really good game where they mixed it up real well, where they were pounding some balls and then tipping some others,” said Battle Mountain coach Brian Doyon. “They didn’t let our back row get settled and threw our front row players off quite a bit.”
Both offensively and defensively, Sandoval keyed a versatile Devils’ attack, combining for 10 kills, eight digs and two aces, the last one being the game- and match-winner in the decisive Game 3. Half of Sandoval’s kills came off placed tips, not spikes, each ball finding its way over the Huskies’ block and in front of its back line.
“That definitely killed us. They are such a great team with hitting, that I wish they would have hit at us and given us a chance to play like that, but by throwing those tips at us, they found our weak spot.” said Huskies middle blocker Jenna Tjossem. “We tried getting our setter in there, we tried more aggressive defense. I just don’t really know what to say.”
Eagle Valley broke open a 5-5 game in the opener behind the jump-serving of junior Kenzie Shreeve. Shreeve’s serves kept the Huskies off balance and led to a four-point lead. From there, Devils junior Kelli Verderber and Sandoval scored four of the next seven Devils’ points off perfectly placed tips, exposing a porous Huskies defense.
“It was really hard because we’re really used to hitting teams, like Glenwood, who will really smack the ball, not tip it,” said Huskies outside hitter Candyse Rodrick. “I think we tried to adjust, but it wasn’t enough.”
Added Doyon, “I don’t think it’s much a key to their game, more so as it was a key that threw us off our game. Tips are more of our front row players responsibility than our back row players. So even though we have a double block, we have one other player covering. Sometimes that one player wasn’t always getting off, or was misjudging what was happening.”
After a lopsided Game 1, the Huskies got rolling in the second game, coming back from 7-3 to score six-straight and go up by two. Tjossem, Rodrick and Amy Oliver led the Huskies effort, teaming up for seven kills and two aces in the game, but it still wasn’t enough to hold off the Devils, who regained the lead for good after the game was tied at 16-16.
The play that summarized the game and the match, was another Sandoval tip, this time with Devils up, 21-19. Sandoval deftly dropped the ball in the middle of the court and five of the six Huskies players on the floor dove for it, each one coming up empty handed.
“I was basically told to execute that way because they weren’t really picking up on it. They would expect us to be hitting it,” said Sandoval. “I guess I just surprised them with the tips, and they didn’t adjust. It just seemed to work really well for us.”
“It’s like she knew where to place every time,” said Shannon Aragon, the Devils defensive specialist. “They improved a lot on their digs, but whatever they threw at us, we just threw it right back at them.”
The third game was another close one – the two teams were tied a total of seven times, all the way up until 16-16 – but, again the Devils finished strong, going on a 9-2 run to close out the match.
“We felt that, if we could get on a roll at some point during the second game, we might be able to set the tone for the rest of the match. Then the third game becomes a little less key, said Devils coach Karl Talcott. “One thing we get to work on in a game like this is how hard can we finish? Can we close when we get close to the end? Are we going to step it up even more and cut down on our errors, or are we going to let them hang around? I think we achieved that pretty well tonight.”
Both teams return to league play this weekend with the Huskies hosting Moffat County at 1 p.m., while the Devils hit the road Friday to play Roaring Fork.
Nate Peterson is a sports writer for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608 or via firstname.lastname@example.org.