Prep notebook: Devils fall in 4A Region 10 volleyball tournament
Saints fall to Mustangs 34-8 in 8-man football playoffs
This wasn’t how Eagle Valley’s volleyball season was supposed to end. The No. 10 Devils came into the 4A Region 10 tournament final as the hosts, the favorites, league champs and riding an 11-game winning streak. But, they ran into Woodland Park.
“They had a good team,” Eagle Valley head coach Mike Garvey said of the Panthers, who went 2-0 and will represent the region at the state tournament.
“Other than missing a few serves, I thought we played well all day. I think the challenge was that it just came down to mistakes and Woodland Park made less than we did.”
Garvey’s crew made quick work of No. 27 Severance in the early-morning first game, dispatching the Silver Knights 25-15, 25-20, 25-16. At 10:30, Woodland Park took down Severance as well, setting up a decisive — for state qualifying purposes — final.
The Devils came out hot in the first set of the final match, going up 6-0 on the Panthers. The home team’s hitting mistakes, however, caused a palpable energy shift.
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“They got back in the game with our attack going out of bounds,” Garvey expounded. “Later in the match we did a better job of keeping the ball in play and Woodland Park was able to return it, but when you hit it out on your own and don’t make them give an effort, that gives them momentum and loses it for yourself.”
The Devils’ trend of sending spikes out the back allowed Woodland Park to go on a 5-0 run and take a 13-10 lead. Eventually, it resulted in a 25-20 win.
“A tough opponent is going to challenge you — if you don’t swing hard it’s too easy for them,” Garvey said. “So, it’s that fine line of how strong can we attack and do so without error. That’s volleyball for you.”
Despite a deflating opening set, it was the dramatic second game that proved to be the actual turning point. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, Woodland Park let the Devils counter with a 7-1 run of their own. The 13-6 Devils’ advantage would evaporate, however, as the Panthers went on a 8-1 run to tie things up.
For the next ten minutes, both teams traded haymakers, never creating more than a one-point gap until Taylor Hooper finally found redemption. The high-flying Devils’ sophomore outside hitter went high and spiked one right into the dirt to make it 22-21. The Devils scored the next two points as well and appeared to be rounding a corner.
The visitors, however, dug in, scoring three in a row, the last of which came courtesy of yet another Devils’ kill attempt out the back. Trailing 24-25, Eagle Valley didn’t succumb to the pressure, clawing back to tie it 25-25. Hooper sent a rocket jump-serve on the next play, which baffled Woodland Park. The 26-25 lead was fleeting, though.
After two more lead changes, the Panthers put the Devils to rest, winning 29-27 off a dribbler over the net that landed untouched in front of the unsuspecting home team’s defense.
“We were talking after the game and just kind of thought to ourselves, boy, if we tie that at 1-1, is that enough to change the momentum, can you get the other team doing some other stuff,” Garvey reflected.
“It appeared for awhile during that second set that we kind of got them rattled. They did a good job of recovering; I thought that was going to be our breaking point.”
The momentum propelled Woodland Park to a 10-4 lead in the third, but Eagle Valley showed resiliency, not only tying the game up, but taking an 18-16 lead. A key 5-0 run from there shifted things in the Panther’s favor yet again, and the Tri-Peaks runner-ups put the hammer down to finish the sweep, 25-20.
“We had opportunities to take the swings we wanted, and we just had to own that we didn’t execute,” Garvey said.
“One of our goals this year was to get ourselves a hosting position and theoretically seeing a lesser opponent, and Woodland Park was not a lesser opponent. So, hats off to them.”
The Devils finished the season 18-7.
“This group did a great job of learning from the previous team and I know the next group will do the same thing,” Garvey said. “A great season — it’s just that challenging to punch through. We tried to be one of the top-12 and we were a match away.”
“This was just a fabulous team,” he continued. “A wonderful group of girls that treated each other well. A pleasure to coach.”
Playing in the 4A Region 6 tournament, No. 31 Battle Mountain fell to No. 6 Green Mountain in a hard-fought three-set match, 25-15, 30-28, 30-28. The Huskies also lost their afternoon game against No. 19 Durango, 25-27, 25-21, 25-16, 25-18, to finish their season 9-14.
“Regardless of scores or outcomes at any point in the season or today especially, I am incredibly proud of this group of girls. They have built a team and a culture that has been unmatched in a group I have been apart of since the start of my coaching career,” stated head coach Shelby Crummer.
“The caliber of senior leadership we’ve had is going to be missed as these athletes move toward a new season of life. Of the senior class specifically, I believe in their ability to navigate what is next with grace and grit. Because no matter what, they rise, and that in itself is the win.’
No. 9 Vail Christian got out to an 8-0 lead on No. 8 Sanford in the first round of the 8-man football playoffs Saturday, courtesy of a Taylor Shull to Will Neumann 24-yard touchdown pass (and successful Shull-led extra-point conversion), but it wound up being the team’s only points on the day. The Saints fell to the Mustangs 34-8 in the teams’ playoff rematch.
“They’re a good football team, disciplined,” Saints head coach Tim Pierson said of the San Luis Valley rivals. “Our kids played hard — it just didn’t go our way.”
After the initial score, Sanford retaliated on a fade play to make it 8-6, failing on their two-point conversion — a trend which persisted throughout the day. As a gritty, defensive second quarter came to a close, the Saints had the Mustangs pinned on their own five-yard line on third down. Sanford executed a screen pass for the first down and more. The ensuing 95-yard touchdown drive proved critical.
“Absolutely,” Pierson said when asked if the play and drive was a turning point. “That was a tough play. That first half, we did really well dominating time of possession. We just couldn’t find the endzone.”
Pierson was pleased with his team’s execution defensively, where the goal was to force Sanford to throw.
“We really felt like we had to be physical and stop the run and we did that, but we gave up some passing yards. We did a good job taking away what they did. They had a couple of long pass plays,” he said. “We forced them to do that at least; they just had that option to go to.”
The Saints finished the season with a 7-2 record.
“Proud of these seniors,” Pierson said. “It was a good year.”