Looking familiar: Saints at regionals
EDWARDS Last year, Vail Christian volleyball set all sorts of school records while venturing into uncharted waters.The Saints rode a perfect league record into districts, where they advanced to regionals and then moved on to their first state tournament.This time around, Vail Christian is hoping familiarity with the path will help navigate it to the state tournament again. With all but one player returning from last years squad, the Saints boast plenty of experience and a better record heading into regionals 20-3 versus 19-5 last season.While the regional bracket on Saturday looks similar to last years, and the Saints come in as the No. 2 seed from their district again, Vail Christian isnt taking anything for granted.At this point, we realize everyone is going to be good and we need to make sure we take care of our side, Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander said. Were feeling really good. The confidence level in the girls is up.A days worth of top-level opponents may play to Vail Christians advantage. We rise up to the other teams ability, which is good, said Saints hitter Kelly Bowles.Early in the day, No. 4 Vail Christian faces No. 1 La Veta (22-1), then right after, it squares off against No. 2 Dove Creek (16-7). Following a one-match break, the Saints close out play against No. 3 Mountain Valley (13-9).Its a good draw for us this weekend, Alexander said. We have two of the toughest teams in my opinion, record wise back to back. Well have to bring it all for those two matches. I think thats better for us than to have to have to sit (in between).And with a loss to Dove Creek still in their minds, the Saints are ready to get back on the court, and they are hungry to put their offense to work.Im excited to play them again, Bowles said. I think we can beat them. Were going out there to play like its revenge.If the Saints end up repeating what they did to Ridgway at regionals, Dove Creek may be in trouble. Vail Christian, which fell to Ridgway in its only league defeat, came back and pounded the Panthers in three games at districts. At districts, the Saints fell to Dove Creek in a close, four-game match.After going back over our Dove Creek match, we realized we made errors, … and we are ready to eliminate them, Alexander said.I think we beat ourselves, Bowles said. We got hyped up, won the first game, then the next three, we made more errors and gave them the match.
This week in practice, Alexander hasnt just been pushing the physical aspect of the game.Thats what were hoping for, she said. I told the kids its kind of like preparing for the SATs they need to be focused for the entire time. They are doing a lot of mental preparation and focusing at night (at home).Practices have been great theyre trying to step it up a notch and play at a more consistent level. They are ready and excited. And obviously without a new person I havent brought anyone up, which wont create any uncertainty.With only one senior last season Jackie Parker the Saints roster looks nearly identical. From the beginning of this year, the Vail Christian players held high expectation for themselves.Were just trying to stay focused on our team and play as a team, Bowles said. We want to be aggressive throughout (regionals). We know all the teams weve played them before. We just have to go in there and trust God to take us all the way through.The Saints boast a deep lineup and multiple-threat offense.We have a bunch of different hitters, which is nice, so we can spread it out, Bowles said. We can get a good hit from the middle or outside, so its a good surprise.Alexander has a great bench, which she always uses. I have a lot of depth this year thats showing more maturity throughout the season, Alexander said. My young sophomores are really coming along and playing well.In practice, the Saints have been looking to replicate what their opponents will likely do on offense this weekend.Weve been practicing defense, but we love (our) offense, Bowles said. We need to focus on the defensive end, and all around, well be awesome.The top two teams from regionals will advance to state.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.