District time for Saints and Devils
Welcome to districts, where it finally counts.Yep, both Eagle Valley and Vail Christian have played 19 matches this season, and those were important, but everything boils down to the next three weekends – districts, regionals and state.Whether you’re the 4A Devils or the 1A Saints (a reminder – Vail Christian drops down from 2A for the postseason), the strategy is the same. The top two teams from the district tournament advance. Both teams want to win their respective pools, so that their crossover match is not against the best competition on the other side of the bracket, which would be Durango for the Devils and Norwood for the Saints.By nothing more than a coin flip, we start with Vail Christian.SaintsWelcome back to Olathe, ladies.It’s corn country for the second year in a row for Vail Christian, but routine is fine by the Saints.At 17-2, the 2A Slope champs are a veteran bunch, and that experience is something upon which they will be relying this weekend.”Absolutely, we’re going in with a lot more confidence,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “They know what it takes, and they’re willing to do what they have to do.”Vail Christian’s district path starts Friday at 1:30 p.m., when the Saints face the winner of an Ouray-North Park pigtail game. At 4 p.m., it’s Dove Creek.Norwood, Plateau Valley and Nucla, seeded in that order, are on the other side. If – and it’s always a big if at districts – things play to form, it’s Vail Christian and Plateau Valley for the fourth time Saturday morning, with a trip to the district finals and, more, importantly, a berth in regionals on the line.”We’ve got to win the first two on Friday, but you never know,” Alexander said. “Norwood-Plateau Valley went five games early in the season.”Early would be the key word in that quote. That’s because the Saints beat Norwood in three at the season-opening tournament at Plateau Valley. Though it was early in the season, that win was an eye-opener for those who follow Vail Christian. The two teams met three times last year, with the Mavericks taking two of three. The kicker, of course, was that the Saints got the last laugh by knocking off Norwood in the regional tournament to punch their ticket to state.The Saints are going on the assumption that the Mavericks are a better team than they were in September. The Saints certainly feel that way about themselves, as well.”The only thing we know from that match was their lineup,” Alexander said. “If we serve well, we can keep (Lindsey Stindt) off the net.”DevilsEagle Valley will be traveling a long way to face some teams it knows pretty well.Eagle Valley (14-5) is in the District 8 Tournament in Durango on Saturday, and it will be facing none other than Montrose and Steamboat Springs in pool play.The Devils fell to Montrose in five on the road and swept the Sailors in league play, so there will be no shortage of familiarity in the Four Corners.”The travel isn’t as bad as if we were going to Delta for one game,” Devils coach Shawn Weatherred said. “There’s no school Friday, so we’re leaving nice and early, so we’re not rushed. It’s a long bus ride, but it’s team-bonding time.”And speaking of fun travel, Pueblo Centennial and Pueblo East join Durango on the other side of the bracket.The Devils open the district tournament at 9 a.m. with Montrose. The Devils did have a 2-0 lead against the Indians, so that should be a competitive match. The Sailors gave Eagle Valley some trouble in their first meeting – the Devils won in five. The second match last weekend was another story with the Devils playing one of their best matches of the year and sweeping.The Devils and Durango, were they to meet, have a little history. They met on the floor of the Denver Coliseum at state last year with the Devils winning in three.Eagle Valley is certainly a different team than last November, but that’s some motivation, according to Weatherred.”For the girls who came up from JV last year or were sort of on the fringe, that’s a big thing,” he said. “They want to do as well as last year and put their mark on the program.”RANGELYVMS falls in pigtailsVail Mountain School volleyball did not go down without a fight.The Gore Rangers lost their district-pigtail game at Rangely Tuesday night in four games. The Panthers won the decisive fourth set, 32-30.VMS was making its second trip to Rangely in four days and finished the season 8-12.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.