Lady Devils seniors look to end the season strong
Special to the Daily
GYPSUM — Eagle Valley girls basketball is strongly heading into the home stretch of its schedule. The Lady Devils stand at 13-4 (8-3 in league play). As the Devils end their season, they come off as hungry for revenge and driven to achieve greatness.
The Devils can thank their four seniors, Mariel Gutierrez, Carly Volkmer, Taylor Martin and Jessie Chambers, for much of their success. These four seniors came into a program that needed to be built from the ground. The four girls have been varsity players since the day they walked into the program.
“I knew I had a talented, athletic group of girls coming up that I thought showed a lot of promise,” said head coach Sam Bartlett.
One of Bartlett’s initial concerns this season was who was going to step up to the challenge of providing leadership. He didn’t know if he had that one player that could glue his team together in a time of need. However, as the season has progressed, the leadership he was seeking has been found in his seniors. Bartlett still does not have one player that keeps his team together, but rather an entire unit of seniors. Each member of the unit has her own unique skill sets that are instrumental to the team’s success.
Senior guard Mariel Gutierrez is a master at stealing the ball. Despite her small stature, Gutierrez always seems to come out of a scrum with the ball. She is not afraid to dive on the court or sacrifice her body for her team. Gutierrez often acts as a catalyst for the team when they are in need. In fact, she leads the Western Slope 4A League in both steals and assists. The Lady Devils offense is at its best when they press on defense. Gutierrez often gets her hands on the ball and starts fast breaks.
The Lady Devils’ other senior guard, Carly Volkmer, can also get the team going. Volkmer is a lock-down defender. Growing up with older brothers turned her into one of the scrappiest players in the league. Volkmer will not shy away from any contact. Early in her high school career, Volkmer had issues with fouls. She has always hung her hat on her defensive ability, but her aggressive style often turned into fouls. In her senior year, Volkmer has found her niche. She has been able to pester opposing players all game, while rarely getting in foul trouble.
Standing tall in the post all year has been senior center Taylor Martin. Martin has been big on the boards all year for the Lady Devils, averaging nearly 10 rebounds a game. Both on the offensive and defensive boards, Martin has been an animal. Other than her rebounding ability, Martin has anchored the Lady Devils defense.
“Defense pays off,” Martin said.
Martin makes sure to contest everything at the rim, often times blocking the shots of her opponents. Her ability to make shots harder for the opposing teams has given the Lady Devils a distinct advantage in many games this year.
Finally, senior forward Jessie Chambers has been instrumental in keeping opposing players out of the paint. Chambers has become an outstanding help defender and has been getting her hands on everything. Any time an opposing player beats her defender, Chambers is there to help turn the opposition away from the basket. This gives the Lady Devils defense enough time to recover and settle down. One of Chambers’ greatest attributes is her selflessness on the offensive end of the court. Chambers does not seem to care about the glory of scoring. As long as the team is scoring and winning games, Chambers is happy.
Other than the four seniors, the Lady Devils receive significant contributions from sophomores Kylie Martin and Katie McKay and juniors Ashley Floyd and Victoria Schwaiger. The seniors are the heart of the team, but the depth and strength of Bartlett’s eight-woman rotation has truly helped his team.
“Finish everything that you do. Even if it gets hard, finish it,” Chambers said.
It is time for the Lady Devils to finish. They have been reminded of this notion all year. At the beginning of each year, Bartlett orders team shirts with a message on the back. This year’s mantra is “finish.” Everything the Lady Devils do, they need to finish. Every lay-up practice, game or season, they need to finish. This group wants to win the conference and make a serious push in the playoffs. The most notable aspect of this team is the respect between the players and the coaches. When asked, Bartlett wanted to win the conference for the girls. He wanted the four seniors to see the fruits of their labor. But the seniors, when asked, said they wanted to win for Bartlett.
“We want to win not only for ourselves, but for coach Bart. He has put in so much time and effort to build this program. He deserves it,” Gutierrez said.
The mutual respect has fostered a strong culture in Eagle Valley girls basketball. These four seniors developed this culture and turned a culture of mediocrity into a culture of winning.
“They’re going to leave this program in a lot better of a situation than when they found it,” Bartlett said.
The Devils’ next game is against Rifle on Tuesday in Gypsum.