Gore Rangers, Saints gear up for districts
Look out district contenders, here comes Vail volleyball.This weekend, the Vail Mountain and Vail Christian squads will compete in the 1A District 1 Tourament in Montrose.After stellar seasons, both teams come in seeded in the top half of the draw, with the Gore Rangers as the No. 1 seed and the Saints as the No. 4. And it just happens to work out that the rivals will meet at least once again.”The idea is to face Vail Christian (with our record) 2-0,” said Vail Mountain coach Mike Garvey. “Most likely, Vail Christian will be 2-0 then as well.”And if the stars align, and they each win their cross-over games, they could meet for a fourth time, in the finals.That’s a few games away, but for the seniors on both teams, it’s hard to ignore.”Vail Christian in the finals would be our best situation because we’ve played them before,” said Vail Mountain’s Miranda Farley. “They are good competition, but we’ve beat them twice.”But, there are two sides to every story.”It’s almost a good thing we didn’t beat (Vail Mountain) the last two times because we know we’ll have to step it up and beat them this time,” said Vail Christian’s Bradie Beagley.And yes, there are also six other teams. Along with Vail Christian and Vail Mountain, No. 5 Norwood and No. 8 Ridgway round out one pool. The other pool has No. 2 North Park, No. 3 Dove Creek, No. 6 DeBeque and No. 7 Ouray.
Each team will play the other three teams in its pool, then the top-two finishers from each pool will cross over and play in the semifinals. Both finalists will advance to the regionals, but will play for the district title and regional seeding.Road to regionalsThe Gore Rangers ease into action, facing Ridegway on Friday, Norwood Saturday morning, then Vail Christian Saturday afternoon.”I think (the schedule) will be beneficial for us,” Farley said. “We’ll be able to warm up on Ridgway – we know their game is slow, then the games get progressively harder.” Vail Christian starts off with Norwood, then plays Ridgway before playing up seven seeds to Vail Mountain.”We kind of have a difficult schedule,” said Vail Christian’s Kaley Hagerman. “There are also some teams we’ve never played before.”Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander knows a bit about her team’s potential crossover opponents.”Dove Creek has a similar win percentage as we have, but they lost a lot of their big seniors,” Alexander said. “And North Park has some really tall players.”Still, the Saints are reading much into what they know.
“We are preparing as if they are as good or better than VMS,” said Vail Christian’s Nicole Parker.And the Gore Rangers are a bit in the dark, as is Garvey’s want.”Garvey went and scouted a few of the other teams, but he doesn’t give us too much information,” Farley said.Relaxation and competitionAt this point in the season, practice is more geared towards mental preparation and fine-tuning.The Saints used Wednesday’s practice to relax their muscles. During practice, each player received a 10-minute massage.”It’s the first time we’ve ever done anything, like this,” Hagerman said. “And it’s nice because some of us have minor injuries.”Anyone with bumps or bruises will need to rest up for the possible marathon of four matches they could play on Saturday.Over in East Vail, the Gore Rangers took a different approach to practice Wednesday, competing in Garvey’s version of the reality TV show “Survivor.”
“The point was to have fun and loosen up a bit,” Garvey said. “We feel confident we’ve done everything we need to do to prepare for districts.”But maybe Survivor is the best preparation for the postseason.”I hadn’t even thought of that,” Garvey said. “But I guess there will only be one team left.”On Tuesday Vail Mountain tuned up for the stiffest competition by scrimmaging 4A Battle Mountain.”You always want to see the best competition we can get,” Garvey said. “We were pleased with our results and felt we went point-for-point with them.”For Vail Mountain’s Lara Green, it was not a only a chance to see some fast hits, but a spring-sport teammate.”I play doubles tennis with (Battle Mountain) setter Britney Brown, so I was having fun with that,” Green said.Drive for thought”Driving to Montrose lets us thinking about what we have to do when we get there,” Parker said.
While the league champion, Gore Rangers, have had a target on them all year, they don’t mind taking their game on the road.”I’d actually prefer to take a trip where the team is not going to be at home,” Garvey said. “We can separate ourselves and be focused.”The trip to Montrose will mark the last time Vail Mountain competes in districts as a 1A team, as next year it moves up to 2A.”I’m a senior so it doesn’t play out for me, but I’ve been thinking about that lately and it’s our last chance to shine in the 1A league,” Farley said. Farley will join four other seniors Green, Aubrie Apple, Lindsay Wright and Cely Brinkmann, in what will be their final postseason appearance. They hope last year’s loss in districts will serve as a learning experience for this year.”Going in, we’re acting different than past years,” Green said. “We are letting go of other obligations and focusing on this goal.”For Vail Christian, seniors Parker, Hagerman and Beagley hope to advance to regionals for the first time since their freshman year. The game is the true swan song for Hagerman, who plans to graduate in December.”We’ll be ready,” Hagerman said. “Consistency is what it comes down to – making fewer mistakes than anyone else.”Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado