Saints put up a fight to close out state
Vail, CO Colorado
DENVER ” It was one of those days where a total team effort just didn’t seem to be enough. Unfortunately for Vail Christian volleyball, it came on the final day of the 1A state tournament.
After a tough first day on Friday, which saw the Saints lose one of its setters, Brooke Bowles, and two matches, Vail Christian fell to Flagler Saturday morning, 25-14, 25-14, 22-25, 25-6.
“They had the desire and the effort,” said Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander. “There are 61 other team that are not here. These kids have done a fabulous job to get here. It gets harder and harder after you’ve lost a player to regroup.”
The Saints played the Panthers tough in the early stages of the first and second games, but couldn’t find the consistency that had earned them a second straight state appearance.
“They were doing the right things, I just think they were a little shell shocked,” Alexander said. “I rotated them thinking we could do a better job blocking against (Flagler’s) bigger girl, but I just didn’t think about the passing aspect of (Flagler’s) other server.”
Down two games to none, Vail Christian put forth a solid effort in the third game and got great offense from Kelly Bowles and Molly Brooks to extend the match.
“Kelly stepped up really well in the second half of the second game and the first half of the third game, and even through the whole last game she was stepping up as a leader, but the passing wasn’t there for us to do anything,” Alexander said.
Britni Beagley had another good match as the sole setter in a 5-1 system, though she had to move all over the court to pick up a lot of passes.
“It’s not so much that we weren’t good without Brooke,” Beagley said. “It’s more we weren’t our team without Brooke.”
As was the case Friday, the Saints put up a tough block against a tall and hard-hitting Panthers offense.
“Closing the block was real good and serving, for the most part, was real good,” Alexander said.
Aside from a few miscues, which seems reasonable considering some girls were in new positions, Vail Christian played organized all-around defense and let few balls hit the floor.
“We all committed ourselves to doing our own job to make the whole team work,” Allie Parker said. “You can’t do everybody’s job.”
But the Saints didn’t have the near-perfect performance from each player that they’d put forth to state the tournament.
“None of us were on top of our game, and we needed that,” Parker said.
This year, Vail Christian entered state with plenty of big-match experience and with high expectations, despite being the No. 8 seed.
“We hoped to win, but with the circumstances we were dealt, we did the best we could,” Beagley said.
From the first point Friday, the Saints were business-like in their approach.
“We weren’t awe-struck by the (Denver) Coliseum like last year when we walked in with wide eyes,” Parker said. “We did improve from last year.”
And Vail Christian put up a tough fight against the No. 1 team in the state.
“We did take a game away from Fleming, and that was big,” Parker said. “They were seeded No. 1 and didn’t expect anything from us and we came out and beat them in the first game. That was exciting.”
Still, the girls would have rather come away with the school’s first win at the state tournament.
“Had we had a full squad, I think our expectations would have been realized, but with what we were dealt, I think the girls did a great job,” Alexander said. They are upset now because their expectations were higher, instead of just being here.
“God has lessons for us out of all of this and the girls will be much better young ladies and that’s what we’re here as coaches to do ” to provide life lessons and step them through that process. Along the way we get happy and sad with them.”
Last year’s state appearance ” the first in school history for volleyball ” pushed the Vail Christian program to a new level. With back-to-back visits, Alexander is quite excited about what the future brings.
“You saw it this year,” she said. “I had 28 kids out for my volleyball team. The most I’ve ever had is 19. It’s huge. With a new gym and two courts and coaches, it’s an awesome thing.”
Beagley, who along with Kristin McGinty, Brooks and Kelly Bowles, will be graduating, is happy to have helped establish a legacy.
“The volleyball team is showing younger girls .. who look up to what we are doing,” she said.
If the Saints make it three in a row next year, they’ll have to step it up a little more.
“We moved up to 2A (for 2008) so it will be a lot of hard work to get back here,” Alexander said. “But … as I look down the future, we have (middle schools) with some really good kids. And we have five returning players with a lot of experience. If not next year, we’ll be back.”
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.