Full time: Saints nip Gore Rangers
Vail, CO Colorado
EAST VAIL ” Even after Vail Christian took the first two game from Vail Mountain Friday night, there was no way the rivalry match was ending in three.
As the unwritten rules of the “Go Blue, Go Vail” matchup dictate, the contest must go to four or five games, there must be countless lead changes, plenty of long rallies and a crowd that never stops cheering.
Both teams, along with their spirited fans, battled for more than two hours until 1A Vail Christian beat 2A Vail Mountain, 25-17, 25-21, 19-25, 13-25, 15-11 in a non-league match in East Vail.
“After we pushed it to the fifth game, I told (Vail Christian coach) Cathy Alexander, ‘You didn’t think we were going to let you go in four, did you?'” Vail Mountain coach Mike Garvey said. “It’s just a great rivalry. I don’t know how many times in recent years its been to five games. As I said beforehand, this is what high school sport are all about.”
Alexander, even with a two-game cushion, had no illusions of it being a three-and-out affair.
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“Our girls knew that,” Alexander said. “We played great. Vail Mountain played great. It’s always that way. It’s a fabulous match.”
After just about every point, one half of the gym would erupt, shaking the bleachers and rendering the officials’ whistles useless at times.
“These guys are phenomenal,” Alexander said of the Vail Christian cheering section.
“In the 11 years I’ve been here, this was the best support we’ve gotten,” Garvey said. “We appreciate the support.”
And, yes, there was some great volleyball played, too. The Saints used solid ball movement early, only to see the Gore Rangers turn things around on great serves and smart attacks. In the fifth game, Vail Christian took advantage of a handful of Vail Mountain serving errors to build a large lead and close out the match.
While the crowd went wild players from both sides did their best to focus on the task at hand.
“Our coach told us we shouldn’t listen to the crowd, and that’s what all of us did,” said Vail Christian’s Kristin McGinty, who led a high-powered attack in the first two games, and finished the night with a game-high 14 kills.
“I think we got a little hyped up early,” said Vail Mountain’s Elsie Macsata. “After the third and fourth games, we composed ourselves. I get pumped, but can’t really focus on that.”
Although the Saints pulled away late in the first game, neither team held giant leads until the Gore Rangers cruised to a 21-8 lead late in the fourth game. Alexander called a timeout and her team settled down a bit, hoping to set the tone for the deciding game.
“That’s what we talked about ” regardless of the score, we wanted to come out and go into (the fifth game) with momentum,” she said. “And I think we did. Even though we lost the fourth game, we stepped back up.”
In the final game, the Gore Rangers, who up to that point had been lethal from behind the line ” especially Chanda Wilcox, who had eight aces ” had a handful of costly serving errors.
“As Games 3 and 4 came around, our pressure got higher on our serves and we started to serve tougher,” Garvey said. “That’s what I wanted to see from us in the match. And it really weakened (Vail Christian). But missing those serves late in the game when that had been our highest pressure situation was unfortunate. We need to learn how to play with that type of pressure.”
Even with the serving errors, the Gore Rangers kept it close, until back-to-back kills by Vail Christian from Bianca Jensen and Kelly Bowles sealed the win.
Aside from some serving errors on both sides, there weren’t many free points being handed out. And there were plenty of rallies that looked like they should have ended four times over, only to see a diving player keep the point alive and bring a roar from the crowd.
For both teams, Friday’s match served as a great tuneup for district play.
“This was really the best thing that could have happened to us,” McGinty said. “We needed to struggle …. to win.
As was the case for the Saints, the Gore Rangers brought their best to the plate Friday.
“It’s the most competitive game we’ve played all year,” Macsata said. “And I think we’re just going to keep continuing. Coming into districts, this is perfect for us.”
Both teams are in action again today in their final league matches, with Vail Mountain hosting Crested Butte in a non-league contest in the morning, then league opponent Hayden in the afternoon. Vail Christian hosts Crested Butte in the afternoon.
Despite the physically and mentally draining match Friday, players are optimistic that there won’t be a letdown today.
“Our coach and our team as so pumped for tomorrow,” Macsata said.
McGinty didn’t even flinch when asked if the Saints will be ready.
“It’s our last match and four seniors are leaving,” she said. “It will be insane.”
Sunday, the Colorado High School Activities Association will release seedings for districts.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.