Traveling Saints ready for final trip
EDWARDS ” Give the Saints a gym, any gym, and they’ll play top-notch volleyball.
And even if Vail Christian doesn’t have a place to practice, nothing’s stopped the team.
The nomadic Saints have practiced in gyms from Edwards to Eagle-Vail, as their new gym, currently known as “The Swimming Pool,” has yet to be completed.
But it’s all the same to 1A Vail Christian, which will be making its first appearance at the state tournament in school history Friday at the Denver Coliseum.
“We’ve had to shuffle throughout the year,” said Saints coach Cathy Alexander. “We’ve made due the best we can all year without making a big deal. The girls just keep going.”
And the ladies keep setting the bar a bit higher each step along the way. First, the Saints went through league without losing a match, or a game for that matter. Then came districts, where the third-seeded Saints emerged second behind No. 1 North Park.
In its second regional appearance, Vail Christian, again No. 3, paid little attention to rankings and beat No. 2 La Veta after falling down, 2-0. The Saints went on to finish second to No. 1 North Park.
“They came back from being down two games to nothing, which was the biggest match (for us) in the whole tournament,” Alexander said. “It gave them a huge boost of confidence (at regionals), and going into state, it’s given them a huge boost of confidence. (La Veta) was 22-1 going in, and we gave them their seond loss. There are a few teams at state that are 25-1, and the girls don’t feel as if they are beaten before they get there.”
In fact, Vail Christian almost enjoys being the underdog.
“Nobody expected us to beat them,” said the team’s lone senior, Jackie Parker. “The teams we played in districts and regionals thought they had us beat.”
Turn up the music
Much like all of the Saints, Alexander will also be making her first appearance on the floor of the Colesium. While the state experience may not be in the Saints’ corner, the wisdom surely is.
“I’ve talked with serveral coaches, including (Vail Mountain’s) Mike Garvey and (Rangely’s) Dave Walck, and they made a lot of suggestions that we work on our warm-up time,” Alexander. “Warmup is four minutes, and that’s a lot different, so we’ve been practicing that. We’ve been practicing some tougher defense because we are going to be against a bunch of bigger hitters. We are playing defense against no block to try and work on getting under the harder hits.”
Alexander found one more way to simulate an atmosphere in which the top-eight teams vie for a state title: Pumping up the music.
The Saints hit balls at St. Clare Wednesday with the speakers blaring. As has been the case all year, when the Excellent Eight are in synch, little can distract them.
“It’s a steady confidencne,” Alexander said. “There isn’t a lot of big brillance from them, but they are just real steady and play well together. We’ve played just as well away as we have at home. The kids are comfortable playing together anywhere.”
The Saints’ success has caused a buzz in the halls of Vail Christian High School.
“Everyone is really excited,” Parker said. “The whole school is really supportive. They are pretty proud because this is the first time we’ve gone and it’s a huge deal.”
A strong contingent is expected to be cheering for Vail Christian.
The No. 8 Saints (21-6) open against No. 1 Kit Carson (26-1) around 11 a.m. Friday. Next, Vail Christian takes on No. 4 Flagler (19-6) around 2 p.m. On Saturday, the Saints close out pool play agaisnt No. 5 Peetz (20-6) at 8 a.m.
“We made it to state, and that’s a huge deal, but we’re not stopping there,” Parker said.
Today, the Saints will head over to the Vail Valley Academy for a scrimmage and then head to Denver.
And they’ll add the Coliseum to their set of gyms.
The 1A state tournament
1. Kit Carson (26-1)
4. Flagler (19-6)
5. Peetz (20-6)
8. Vail Christian (21-6)
2. Fleming (25-1)
3. Noth Park (24-3)
6. Otis (21-5)
7. McClave (17-9)
Match 1 ” Flagler vs. Peetz, 8 a.m.
Match 2 ” North Park vs. Otis
Match 3 ” Kit Carson vs. Vail Christian, approx. 11 a.m.
Match 4 ” Fleming vs. McClave
Match 5 ” Flagler vs. Vail Christian, approx 2 p.m.
Match 6 ” North Park vs. McClave
Match 7 ” Kit Carson vs. Peetz
Match 8 ” Fleming vs. Otis
Match 1 ” Peetz vs. Vail Christian, 8 a.m.
Match 2 ” Otis vs. McClave
Match 3 ” Kit Carson vs. Flagler
Match 4 ” Fleming vs. North Park.
Match 5 ” Semifinal ” Pool I No. 1 vs. Pool II No. 2, approx. 2:30 p.m.
Match 6 ” Semifinal ” Pool II No. 1 vs. Pool I No. 2, approx 4 p.m.
Match 7 ” Final, 7 p.m.