Devils survive Demons, make regionals
GYPSUM – For Halloween Saturday, the Eagle Valley volleyball team dressed up like district champions – and the really good news is that it wasn’t a costume.
The Devils won the District 7 Tournament by sweeping past Rock Canyon, 25-22, 25-18, 25-13, as part of a 4-0 day to earn a spot in the Sweet 16 that is regionals next week. But the heart-stopping drama came in the more critical district semifinal match against rival Glenwood Springs with the Devils outlasting the Demons, 25-19, 25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 15-13.
“It felt great,” Eagle Valley’s Alex Lassa said. “We were all so pumped up when we won. It felt really good. I would have liked to have won a little bit sooner, but it felt good.”
We’re pretty sure that the Eagle Valley faithful and coaching staff felt the same way, too.
“I’m still upright,” Devils coach Shawn Weatherred said.
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“All I ever asked of the girls was to go out there and give 110 percent, and whatever the outcome is, you should feel like you gave your best,” Demons coach Amber Sutherland said. “If you came up short, you’re still OK with it because it’s better to go out with a big bang. I’m definitely proud of their effort.”
With the top-two teams from each district advancing, the finals are candy as both teams are already off to regionals. The semifinals make or break the season. Eagle took care of Moffat County and Battle Mountain, while Glenwood split with Rock Canyon and Valor Christian in pool play, setting up the third meeting of the season between the two league rivals.
Eagle Valley was still smarting from a three-game loss at Glenwood earlier this month, and appeared to be rolling on its way taking a 2-0 lead. The Demons countered with some adjustments on the block and rallied to force a fifth game.
“They obviously have a couple key players and we honed in on them,” Sutherland said. “I told some blockers to go ahead and go with that girl. We’d have two up on them every single time. We’re not the biggest team, by any means, but as long as we’re disciplined and doing the right things, good things happen.”
Not only did it come down to the fifth set, but both teams were tied at nine. Everything since Aug. 17 came down to six points. Lassa pounded an attack for a 14-12 lead. Glenwood picked up a point on a net violation which had the usually-sedate Weatherred animated. Becka VanVoorst and Shelby Wright combined on a block to clinch a berth in both the district finals and regionals.
“Honestly, if we lose that, I feel like the season would have – I don’t want to use the word failure – it would have been a disappointment, if we had lost that,” Weatherred said. “I think this team is a good as they played out here against Rock Canyon. I think the difference is we don’t have any ties to Rock Canyon. It’s just another team, and we can play volleyball.”
The final against Rock Canyon was really anti-climactic because after a half-hour break, the Devils were very definitely on their game. The third set became a clinic with the likes of Kelsey VanGoey and Becka Van Voorst serving them and Lassa knocking them down with utter authority.
While the Glenwood match was certainly more suspenseful, the win over Rock Canyon was significant. The Devils didn’t win districts last year, falling to Mullen. You can check that off the list now.
“It’s really motivating,” VanGoey said. “We had some bumps in the road after clinching league. Just coming here and doing really well, it’s uplifting. It’s hard to say. It’s a good feeling overall.”
It assures that Eagle Valley will be seeded in the top eight for next week’s regional tournament. The $64,000 question is whether the Devils crack the top-four of the rankings and get to host on Saturday. With the likes of Roosevelt, Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen likely controlling their destiny for the duties of host, the Devils will have to wait for CHSAA to issue its seeds today.
“A lot of these girls were on the team from last year and a lot of newcomers,” Weatherred said. “It just means that they can start believing that Eagle Valley can be a good volleyball club not just within our league, but within 4A state.”
Battle Mountain volleyball finished its season by dropping a pair of matches Saturday to Moffat County and Eagle Valley.
After being swept by the Devils in their two regular season meetings, the Huskies were able to take the eventual district champions to four games.
“We’re ending on a high note,” Huskies coach Lara Bossow said. “We were able to see improvement the whole season. The seniors did everything they could. Everybody did everything they could. Today was for the seniors. They put it all out there on the court and played their hearts out. It just didn’t fall our way.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.