Steamboat snaps Battle Mountain streak
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Battle Mountain High School volleyball coach Jason Fitzgerald said his team found some magic in its freshman and sophomores last time it ran into Steamboat Springs and that it used that element to hold on to a four-set win two weeks ago.
Tuesday, in front of a roaring crowd at home, it was Steamboat that played with a little extra something, and it was with gusto that the Sailors closed out their own four-set victory against Western Slope powerhouse Battle Mountain.
The Sailors beat the Huskies 25-21, 25-14, 17-25, 25-20, handing the team its first league defeat in 22 matches and since 2012.
“It’s just nice to see these kids get what they deserve. I know how bad they want it and how hard they work for it,” Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. “This is a huge barrier for Steamboat volleyball to break through. It’s the biggest win we’ve had in years.”
It took all the Sailors had to get it, too.
They shook off a slow start to win the first set, then were everything they could have hoped to be in the second.
BRANDT A FORCE
Battle Mountain’s Jordan Brandt delivered fierce attacks all night long, but the Sailors slowed even her in the second set, exploding into screams when they delivered back-to-back blocks to win one point late in what became a lopsided set.
“They were playing relentless defense. They served us not tough, but consistent so the pressure was always on us,” Fitzgerald said. “We just couldn’t quite connect evenly enough to put points against them.”
You don’t tower over the Western Slope league the way Battle Mountain has without reason, and in the third set, the Huskies showed it. They finally were able to unreel the punishing hits and stingy defense they’re known for.
Brandt was a force and Mackenzie Ellison came up strong, as well, setting the stage for a fourth set.
In the end, it was Steamboat’s night, though, and the Sailors came back with more of their best.
“That’s something we wanted bad, and a team we’ve fought with for a long time,” Steamboat junior Riley Wilkinson said. “We went onto the court with way more confidence tonight. This time we were ready for them.”
The result does have significant meaning besides the morale boost it gives the Sailors and the streak it snaps for Battle Mountain.
It adds plenty of weight to Thursday’s Battle Mountain vs. Eagle Valley tilt in Edwards. That one was already Homecoming and Senior Night for the Huskies. Now, it could decide the league champ.
If Battle Mountain wins, the Western Slope is theirs for the second year in a row.
If the Devils win and make it a losing streak, those two teams and Steamboat will be in a three-way tie atop the league.
The Sailors have four regular season matches left, starting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with a trip to Moffat County. Battle Mountain has four left, as well.
Thursday’s results and all the rest will be important, Hall said. Still, talking late Tuesday night, she wasn’t quite ready to let go of this one yet.
“I was just really proud to see them follow through, to do what they’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t quite carry out,” she said. “For them to break that barrier of beating someone when we’re the underdog, someone who hadn’t lost a league match in two years, that feels darn good.”