Playing with a purpose: Vail Christian ready to hit
EDWARDS ” Being the favorite can be burdensome.
But Vail Christian volleyball, entering the district championships as the No. 1 team, is flipping thing around.
Although the Saints won the league title for the second year in a row, and advanced to regionals and state, they’ve got something to prove this time at districts ” that their only league loss, a three-gamer to Ridgway, was a fluke.
“We kind of want to get revenge on Ridgway,” said Vail Christian’s Allie Parker.
Our course, there are other matches at districts.
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“I think for us, we’re just not trying to think about all the expectations from last year and (we’re) going to do the best we possibly can. We’re confident we’ll go through, but don’t’ want to be cocky, either,” Parker said.
Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander understands that her girls want to push to the next level and that they have the skills and concentration to get there.
“I’d be silly to think they don’t worry about (expectations),” she said. “We do try and focus on one match at a time and how we’re going to take down that particular opponent at that time. We’ll be making sure we answer back anytime someone blocks us or hits down or does anything whenever they’ve earned their own point. We need to earn our own points.”
Two weeks ago, after dropping their first league match in two years the Saints stormed back last week, going 3-0, including a five-game win against rival Vail Mountain.
“They are very similar to us,” Alexander said of Vail Mountain. “Each individual has lots of strengths to compliment each other. It was really good to play a team that wasn’t centered around one player … and a lot of teams in our district don’t hit that hard.”
Friday, the Saints kick off pool play with the winner of the No. 7 Ouray- No. 6 Ridgway match. Then, Vail Christians plays No. 4 North Park later that evening. Saturday, the top two teams will play a crossover match against teams from the other pool ” No. 2 Dove Creek, No. 3 Norwood and No. 5 Crested Butte. The top two teams from districts move on to regionals.
While the Saints weren’t initially thrilled with the loss to Ridgway, they were happy it happened when it did.
“It was a good learning experience,” Parker said. “I wasn’t just a loss.”
“It made us realize we’re vulnerable and have to watch out for these things,” Alexander said. “We are much better than we played (then) and have something to go out and prove.”
With all but on of last year’s state-qualifying team intact, Vail Christian boasts tons of big-match experience.
“It’s exciting because we closely bonded this year and improved a lot since last year,” Parker said. “We’re excited to see how far we can go.”
After a week of practice and some scrimmaging, the Saints are rearing to play. Alexander just needs to make sure they don’t come out with too much energy.
“They just want to hit,” she said. “They want to be mean and hit the ball hard and that’s something, as a coach, you have to keep that intensity level there and still keep things under control and not let the girls get ahead of themselves.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.