Gore Rangers gear up for state
EAST VAIL – As the competition heightens, so does the excitement for the Vail Mountain volleyball squad.Last weekend at regionals, the Gore Rangers advanced to the state 1A tournament and left behind the pressure of winning the district and regional tournaments.”It’s been a long time coming for us,” said senior Lindsay Wright, who along with the four other seniors, went to state her freshman year.The Gore Rangers enter as the No. 3 seed, which pleases coach Mike Garvey. What excites Garvey more, however, is the level of competition his team will face.”I hope every match goes to five,” Garvey said. “I wouldn’t want it any other way.”And he even wouldn’t mind seeing games that go to 34-32, like the first game against Dove Creek in regionals”Bring it on; it’s the state tournament,” Garvey said. “We are hoping we have to compete. Our kids don’t enjoy a 25-7 game. Our kids want to play the game at its highest level, and that includes the other side of the net.”With seven of the eight teams at state registering 20 or more wins, and six of the eight teams having lost only three or fewer matches, the Gore Rangers will be in good company.”I think the cool thing is that these teams are a lot like us,” said Miranda Farley. “They haven’t seen this competition in their league or district.”This week, in preparation for what will be their final weekend of volleyball, the Gore Rangers are using quick and efficient practice sessions.”Practices have even ended early because they have been on top of things,” Garvey said.
It seems as if volleyball is all that’s on the girls’ minds. “For the last three of four days, we’ve been on such a high,” said Cely Brinkmann.Garvey can see the elation in his team.”The excitement isn’t hard to keep high at this point,” Garvey said. “The girls are having a tough time focusing on school, but that’s to be expected.”The competitionVail Mountain will play in Pool II, along with No. 2 seed McClave (21-3), No. 6 seed Otis (23-3) and No. 7 seed Peetz (20-6). In Pool I are No. 1 seed Julesburg (25-0), No. 4 seed Flagler (22-2), No. 5 seed Kit Carson (23-3) and No. 8 seed Dove Creek (19-8). The top two teams in each pool will advance to the semifinal crossovers.”The beauty of pool play is that if you lose the first-game, you’re not eliminated with a loss,” Garvey said.For now, the Gore Rangers aren’t considering that situation.”The plan is win three matches and don’t allow it to come down to math and tiebreakers,” Garvey said “But should we lose, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”Friday morning, Vail Mountain takes on Otis. The Bulldogs’ three losses came to 2A Resurrection Christian, Kit Carson and Flagler. In the afternoon, the Gore Rangers face a Peetz team that played top-seeded Julesburg to a tight five game match.
“Just by statistics, we know Peetz has a big hitter who has the majority of their kills,” Farley said.Still, the Gore Rangers aren’t reading into their opponents that much.”We’re kind of approaching it the normal way,” said Lara Green. “We are not trying to decode the (teams) or anything.”Practice with the bestWith a roster of 12 girls, all of whom saw playing time at regionals, practice may be just as intense as some of the matches the Gore Rangers will encounter this weekend.”A great advantage to have, and not only in tournaments, is a deep bench,” Garvey said. “That means that’s also who you are competing against in practice.”In practice, Garvey doesn’t divide the girls into starters and bench players, which seems to work fine.”We do six-on-six, and it’s pretty hard-core,” said Aubrie Apple.But physical play isn’t the only aspect that propels a team to the top of the state.”The girls want an opportunity to be successful, and relaxation and composure will be their best ally,” Garvey said.
With almost a full starting lineup boasting state experience, Garvey thinks the focus will be where it needs to be.”When the (seniors) went freshman year, it was just a blur for them,” Garvey said. “Now they are relaxed and remember what they enjoyed about the time before.”The seniors also remember losing, something they hope won’t happen again.”That was disappointing,” Apple said of the team’s early exit three years ago.Denver timeThe Gore Rangers will take some time to enjoy the non-volleyball experience of the tournament Thursday.”We’ve kind of created a tradition in going, so we’ll be going on go-carts, playing laser tag and doing dinner,” Garvey said. “We want to keep things loose and fun. This is the state tournament, and we are going to enjoy all aspects that surround it.”Garvey also hopes the rest of Vail Mountain can enjoy the tournament. “The school has given an excused absence to anyone who wants to go down with their family,” Garvey said. “Everyone should be packing up their vehicles and be there at 8 a.m.”At least 12 other girls will be cheering the Gore Rangers on – the Battle Mountain Huskies.
“Battle Mountain coach Brian Doyon and I spoke on Monday and talked about the possibility of a laser tag game,” Garvey said.For now, the team is taking practice one day at a time while absorbing Garvey’s inspirational quotes.”Some of his quotes are cheesy, but they do their job when he spells them right,” said Farley.As much as the girls heckle him, Garvey, along with assistant coach Jessica Blount, still enjoys every minute he gets to spend with the team.”We told them at districts that if you don’t win, it won’t change how we feel about you,” Garvey said. “The joy is that we’ve been able to extend things and spend two more weeks with them.”What Garvey likes even more is the competitive nature of his team.”We have the opportunity to be state champions, and we don’t have one kid that won’t go after it,” Garvey said. “We didn’t come all this way to lay down at states.”Skill, experience and passion are what the Gore Rangers bring into Denver Friday. What they emerge with is up to them.”I think we are really excited to be there,” Apple said. “But I also think we are a team that loves to win.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado