Saints take first round against Gore Rangers

Vail Christian's Celia Smith powers a shot past the defense of the Vail Mountain Gore Rangers during their game Wednesday in Edwards.
Justin McCarty | |

EDWARDS — Welcome to a volleyball match in which both teams won.

Technically, Vail Christian got the win, 25-10, 25-16, 25-17 over the Vail Mountain School at the Wheeler Events Center in Edwards on Wednesday night. But the biggest thing was simply playing a volleyball match, and that was a triumph in itself.

Without being melodramatic, the Gore Rangers hadn’t played since Sept. 7. VMS senior Lizzie Pancrantz’s father, Mark, died on Thursday, and there were and are more important things to do than hit a volleyball.

Wednesday was a wee bit of a step toward whatever normal is after such an event.

“I was proud of the way our momentum continued to build,” VMS coach Mike Garvey said. “The girls continued to work. We had a little time off, and we’ll get back on the court and keep working. This is was the first of two (against Vail Christian). We try to win every match, but the league competition starts on Friday against Meeker.

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“This our place where we want to enjoy our time together. We’ve got a great group of girls and we’re going to keep moving forward this season.”

“It was good match. It was a hard match,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “The girls weren’t sure how to play it with Lizzie and her circumstances. We just played as hard as we could with as much sportsmanship as we could. At the same time, we were there at the end to say, ‘Good job.’”

One way of how to play Wednesday was good defense. Though it’s still the early going for the Saints — they’re 6-3, but have the bulk of the 2A Slope slate ahead — they can fly to the court and dig an attack out well. VMS had several good moments on offense, only to be stymied by the Saints’ back line.

“We’re very scrappy,” Alexander said. “I have more defensive players on the bench than I can play. There are so many defensive players. I don’t know how to get them all in.”

That’s a really good problem to have, because it takes a certain mentality to get in front of a spike from VMS’ Hannah McKeever or, if you’re Saints libero Isabella McCormick, a strike from teammate Celia Smith in practice.

“In practice, that is what we mainly work on, serve receive and working on our passes to our setter,” McCormick said. “If it’s not perfect, it doesn’t count.”

While most fans, regardless of partisanship in the Saints-Gore Rangers rivalry, would likely agree that it’s a good idea to get the heck out of the way of volleyballs turned into missiles, it’s part of the job for McCormick and her fellow Vail Christian defenders.

“You just have to read the ball and watch where the blockers are,” McCormick said. “If you’re mentally prepared for it and you’re confident you can get it and you move your feet fast, you will get to the ball.”

Sure, easy.

The fun development for Vail Christian is that it gets deeper today for its match at Hayden. (Like Wednesday’s match against VMS, this is the first of two meetings, and, thus, is a nonconference affair.) The Saints welcome Baylee Wiemer, who was the birthday girl Wednesday, and Sara Coulter. The two have finished their transfer period.

“I’m very happy where we are,” Alexander said. “The girls are making improvements every week. The girls certainly aren’t perfect, but they’re perfecting something every week.”

Meanwhile, VMS (1-2) starts its league slate with Meeker at home on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

The Saints and Gore Rangers play their 2A Slope match Oct. 11 in East Vail.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and

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