Vail Christian gives valiant effort at Class 2A Region 7 Tournament
Lady Saints defeated Las Animas in first match before falling to top-seeded Wiggins in championship
The Vail Christian Lady Saints knew making a repeat appearance at the state tournament would be difficult. After graduating Kendelle Smith and Grace McCurdy, they had their work cut out for them this season. What they didn’t expect was to suffer a rash of injury and illness during the first six weeks of the season.
“We couldn’t find our rhythm because we were constantly moving players around to compensate for missing players,” wrote head coach Adina Petersmeyer in an email leading up to Friday’s Class 2A Region 7 volleyball round-robin tournament in Wiggins. The instability resulted in four consecutive September losses. Once they found their health, they found their mojo, finishing the year with an 8-game winning streak.
“Chemistry is everything in volleyball,” the coach said Thursday.
It showed in their first game against Las Animas. After being swept by Wiggins in the 1 p.m. match, the Trojans were hungry to make amends against Vail Christian. The first set was back and forth until Lady Saint junior Grace Engleby decided to say something about it. “When she is on, look out!” her coach warned.
Gracie Allen and Mia Ladd, the senior backbones of the program, led the way — as always — with their defense and passing. “Gracie Allen is one of the best setters that I have ever coached in 25 years,” her coach praised. “Her athleticism, ball control, and decision making is second to none.” Watching freshman sister Jessie pass to the elder Allen’s setting hands has been a treat to observe for the coaching staff. In the first set of their 3-0 victory over Las Animas, it was a perfect Jessie Allen pass, cross-court Gracie Allen set, and cataclysmic Engleby spike that seemed to pull the Lady Saints out of their early back and forth rut and into the lead for good. After a 13-10 lead to begin, they closed out on a 12-3 run.
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The second set started out much like the first, with both teams trading early scores. Identical to the first set, a 6-6 score lit up the board until Daisy Palacio, another one of the Lady Saint’s aggressive junior hitters, started to put pressure on the Trojans. Her hot handed spikes and blocks instigated a 3-0 run to make it 9-6, a lead that grew to 12-8 before another Trojan timeout. The lead ballooned to 16-9 off of a pretty, soft, Allen set to a hard, Payton Vermeer kill. Petersmeyer has noticed improved cohesion between Vermeer and Engleby in particular as the season has progressed, an element that has driven the Lady Saint’s uptempo offense.
Ladd’s powerful serving guided the Lady Saints throughout the match. A 4-0 run in the first set got them rolling, and her checking into the game after a glitch in the Lady Saint offensive system — a Trojan save from out of bounds that somehow went unaccounted for on the Vail Christian side — calmed the group and helped seal another 25-13 win in the second set.
“Mia’s serve is a force and her defensive plays have won us a lot of points,” Petersmeyer said.
Vail Christian closed out Las Animas 25-15 in the third set, setting up a decisive final between Wiggins and the Lady Saints to see who would represent Region 7 in Colorado Springs next week.
The first set was a classic, with neither team giving an inch. Down 7-11, Vail Christian came out of a timeout to claw back and take a 16-15 lead, forcing the hosts into their own timeout. An incredible hustle play to extend the rally led Wiggins to an unlikely point and the lead, 21-20. Two more made it 23-21, but Vail Christian hung tough, heroically claiming three straight points, punctuated by a Maya Telles ace.
Wiggins dug in their heels, showing maturity and winning back two consecutive points of their own. When a Kennedy Kerr kill from the outside barely found the inside of the lines, the Tigers had the 26-24 first set victory.
Wiggins came out hot in game 2 and led 8-3 before Petersmeyer tried to settle things down with a timeout. With the score 14-7 and Wiggins rolling, the Lady Saints tried to muster a second wind, scoring two straight points. When Vermeer rejected a huge kill opportunity from a Kennedy Kerr outside spike, the Vail Christian hopeful sensed renewed life. The Trojans were not having it, however, and closed out the game with an 11-3 run to win, 25-13.
In the third game, Vail Christian tried to get things going, taking an early lead, but the day belonged to the Tigers. The back-to-back playing took its toll on the visitors. With the home team leading 22-12, Engleby’s legs seemed unwilling to get the vertical necessary to clear a ready group of Tiger blockers. When her shot came back her direction, her arms slumped in frustration. Down to their last point, Vail Christian showed the composure and class that had carried them throughout the trials of the early season ups and downs, but ultimately fell, 25-14 to lose in straight sets.
It was the first loss in 9 games for the Lady Saints, who finished their 2021 campaign with a 14-7 record.
Wiggins advances to the state tournament, which begins on Nov. 11 at the Broadmoor Arena in Colorado Springs.