Saints spikers play a new role
EDWARDS ” Taking nothing away from what Battle Mountain volleyball did last fall, there were two teams from Eagle County on the floor of the Denver Coliseum at the 2006 state tournament.
Don’t forget what Vail Christian volleyball did last year. The Saints went 21-9, by far the best record in school history. They won the 1A Mountain League for the first time. And then Cathy Alexander’s crew made state, also a maiden voyage.
So what to do for an encore?
“It gives the girls confidence,” said Alexander. “They know they have the skill to compete. They played a little bit this summer and felt a little pressure. It’s a little different to coach them. It’s a little different to prepare to play. We’re not the underdog anymore.”
Having watched DeBeque and archrival, Vail Mountain School, play the role, Vail Christian is now the queen of the hill in the 1A Mountain League and the team to beat. One result is that the Saints can expect that opponents will be bringing their best game against the Saints, starting with Saturday’s Grand Valley Tournament.
Another byproduct of the team’s success last year is a crowded gymnasium.
Twenty-seven athletes, about half of the school’s female student body, is out for volleyball in 2007.
“It’s cool that we have everyone out here,” senior setter Britni Beagley said. “When we get a little frustrated by having to share floor time (in practice), Coach reminds us we should see it as a compliment for what we’ve done, along with all the other girls who have gone before us.”
While Alexander, now in her seventh year at the helm of Vail Christian volleyball, would rather have a root canal than talk about predicting what her team may do, it’s apparent that a new day is dawning in Edwards.
The Saints graduated just one senior from last year’s team, but Jackie Parker left some very big shoes to fill. Parker literally left everything on the court for Vail Christian. If you were at regionals in Gunnison last year, you saw that as she hurt her leg going into the bench for a loose ball. She gamely went on and so did the Saints to state.
“Jackie was a team leader and we’re obviously going to miss her,” Alexander said. “But we’ve got four seniors with different, unique personalities. They each bring their different strengths when it comes to leading the team.”
The seniors are Beagley, middle blockers Molly Brooks and Kristin McGinty and outside hitter Kelly Bowles, and they all return with state experience. The same can be said of juniors Samantha Francis and Allie Parker, who will be both in the middle and on the outside.
Junior Michelle Discher and sophomores Bianca Jensen, Beri Dwyer and Brooke Bowles round out the 2007 Saints.
“We discussed how we got (to states) last year,” Alexander. “We put God first, our team second and ourselves as individuals last. We need to continue that philosophy. We can’t worry about what others think. It doesn’t matter. Of course, we’re all human, so at times, we do.”
Speeding it up
To keep everyone where they should be mentally, Alexander wants the Saints to focus on the task at hand, and that is speeding up the pace of play. With two returning setters in Beagley and Bowles, this is not an outlandish prospect.
“We’re working on being a solid passing team,” Alexander said. “Otherwise, it’s a very simple game ” pass, set and hit.”
Not only should this pay dividends this year, but in the future. The Saints will be moving up to 2A next year. With that in mind, Vail Christian has upgraded its schedule with dates against bigger schools like Nucla, Gilpin County, Soroco and the Grand Valley tourney. The Saints also host 2A VMS on Oct. 19 in the Blue Vail Rivalry.
The Saints open 1A Mountain League play Sept. 8 at home against Ouray. And for now, there’s no talk of expectations.
“I think we’re all excited to start playing,” Beagley said. “We know there’s enough pressure involved with going to state again. We agreed as a team not to talk about going to state.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or email@example.com.