Vail Christian beats VMS for the first time
EAST VAIL – While Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain met again in Gypsum in their annual meeting, a new rivalry was being born at the Vail Mountain School Tuesday night.
In front of a packed house at the Peter Abuisi Center – where cheering for the blue team or yelling go, “Vail,’ was a pretty safe bet – Vail Christian beat Vail Mountain, 25-18, 29-31, 28-26, 25-23, the Saints’ first win over the Gore Rangers.
“It’s the Battle Mountain-Eagle Valley game of our league,” said Cathy Alexander, whose team is 8-7 – a school record – and 6-2 in the 1A Mountain League. “It’s VMS-Vail Christian. These seniors had been getting whipped on for years and they finally come out and produce a team which is just that – a complete team. It takes everybody the whole time and everybody has to realize that.”
The previous three seasons, Vail Mountain has owned the Saints. The Saints thought they had turned the corner in the first match this season between the two teams, winning the first two games of the match, before watching VMS charge back to win the final three.
But, finally, the tide has turned.
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“We’ve played them four years and never won, and it was so frustrating,” Saints senior Brooke Horan-Kates said. “But, we pulled through and we played as a team. We knew we were going to win. We wanted to win and we did. And, it’s huge. I can’t even express it.”
Vail Christian made a statement early, winning the first game pretty easily, 25-18. On the other hand, Game 2 was a war. The Saints and Gore Rangers traded point after point and were tied at 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29, giving both sets of blue-and-white faithful heart palpitations.
“Great match. Cathy and I were joking as we were going back-and-forth, “Isn’t this fun?’ That’s what it’s all about,” VMS coach Mike Garvey said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t come out for us. I think we had too many errors on our part. We let them in the door one too many times, gave them too many lead. They’re just too good of a team to keep yourself in a match when you play like that.”
VMS did get the job in Game 2. Tied at 29, Aubrie Apple got a nifty tip to make it, 30-29, and Lara Green finished it with an ace.
The Saints’ Game 2 loss seemed to stagger them early in Game 3. VMS took a 15-8 lead, behind big play up front from Lindsay Wright and Cely Brinkmann and good serving from Wright, Lauren Utzig and Zoie Liotta.
At that point, Alexander called a timeout and gave her team a talking to.
“During that time, we had let go the momentum. I called a timeout and said, “It’s in our control. It’s the way we control our team and our side of the floor. It has nothing to do with what they’re doing on their side,'” she said. “They responded tonight.”
Yes, they did. Brittany Wright served some key points to make it, 19-13. Rachel Glandorf added three more from behind the line, while Horan-Kates slammed down one of many key kills.
“I think we realized that as a team we usually have some sort of lapse,” Glandorf said. “We just have to get back into our own game, even if the plays aren’t pretty. We’ve just got to get in our own game and we did that.”
A big block by Horan-Kates closed the lead to 24-23. VMS’ serving game, which struggled for most of the match, made it a tie at 25 with a sideout. Horan-Kates blocked Apple to give the Saints the lead for good at 26-25. Glandorf served the final point and Vail Christian led, 2-1.
In Game 4, Glandorf and Horan-Kates took over. According to Garvey, the duo, along with sophomore Kaley Hagerman were making some adjustments up front, which caused problems for Apple, Brinkmann and Wright.
“They were real smart,” he said. “They made great adjustments against our hitters. They realized (our hitters) had areas they had a tendency to go to, and they made adjustments in their blocking scheme. It think it had an effect in the way we played.”
The Saints led by margins of 18-14 and 20-16 and 22-18 with kills from Glandorf and Horan-Kates and incredible hustle from all the Saints on the floor. Vail Christian sealed the deal on a Glandorf kill, sending the Saints spilling onto the court in front of a standing ovation from the Vail Christian seats – football players included.
Vail Mountain’s regular season is done. The Gore Rangers are 9-9 and 8-2 in league. Meanwhile, the Saints are at Crested Butte Friday and have a huge game with DeBeque Saturday. If the Saints run the table, the 1A Mountain race finishes in a three-way tie with Vail Christian, VMS and DeBeque at 8-2, at which point the NASA Supercomputer will be needed to break the tie.
In the meantime, VMS will be rooting for the Saints against DeBeque and honing their skills for what appears to be wide-open tournament in the race for the two regional spots.
“It’s pretty insignificant where we’re seeded,” Garvey said. “There’s three teams who can come win it and we’ve got to come to play at the district tournament. The two teams that come to districts ready to plat are going to be the ones to advance.”
As for DeBeque on Saturday, Horan-Kates likes the Saints chances, after beating Vail Mountain.
“It feels like we can beat anybody in the world right now,” she said. “I know we need to stay focused and win the next couple of games. But right now, it’s huge.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at email@example.com.