Vail Christian ready for the show
EDWARDS – Robin Williams does it better, but “Good Morning, Vail Christian.”
In preparation for Friday and Saturday’s state tournament, Saints volleyball had a practice at 6:45 a.m. at the WECMRD Field House in Edwards on Tuesday.
“It actually wasn’t that bad,” Vail Christian senior Dakota Francis said. “I didn’t mind it that much. I think it was good for us to get into the gym to see how our bodies felt. That will help a lot. It was early, though.”
Since two of the Saints pool-play matches will be at 8 a.m. down at the Denver Coliseum – Wiley on Friday and Fleming on Saturday – that was a dry run.
It’s one of many adjustments Vail Christian has been making for the 1A tournament. Monday, the Saints knocked the ball around outside to get used to the cavernous Coliseum. Indoor practice has been at the WECMRD Field House on its Sport Court surface, which just happens to be the stuff used at the tourney.
What would be really good is if Vail Christian had a marching band to play at practice while members of the football team threw volleyballs occasionally onto the court.
OK, there’s next year for that.
“We have a little bit of knowledge of what it’s going to be like, but they’ve never played on the floor,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “There’s a big difference.”
The coach is not even close to kidding here. Vail Christian has done run-throughs of warm-up sessions, which are shorter this year at the state tournament – at 7:43 a.m., the teams warm-up, followed by 7:50 a.m. introductions and the anthem and then the game at 8 a.m.
Third time a charm?
This is the Saints third appearance at state. In 2006, it was an understandable happy-to-be-there-three-matches-and-out experience. In 2007, the Saints were rolling in their first match, beating Fleming, the No. 1 seed and eventual state champ, before setter Brooke Bowles broke her arm in Game 2.
Both times, Vail Christian was the eighth seed in the tourney. This year, the Saints come in as No. 4. While the Saints did win their region, a top-four seed is not reserved for those who do in 1A.
Vail Christian (22-4) likely earned it by playing up in the 2A Slope during the regular season. The Saints’ record is telling in that their four losses are all to teams who are in Denver this weekend – 2A No. 3 Rangely, 2A No. 7 Lutheran Parker and 1A No. 6 Norwood (twice).
“I thought our games in league were a lot faster,” Francis said. “I think that prepared us well.”
Francis, Reanna Sutherland and Tracey Salgado were freshmen the last time the Saints went to state. Naturally, they didn’t play. There was also a familiar face as the stat keeper.
“I think it’s even more special this time because last time we went to state, I was in eighth grade,” setter Kylie Alexander said. “I could be on the floor. I could warm up. I was taking stats, but I couldn’t play. My mom was still the coach. She’s still the coach and I actually can play.”
The question when it comes to local teams playing in the 1A tournament is how do mountain teams play against those from the Eastern side of the state? History is not kind here, though Vail Mountain in 2001 and 2002 made inroads and there’s the what-if of 2007 with the Saints and Fleming.
That said, Durango, Eagle Valley, Roaring Fork, Rangely, Norwood and Vail Christian are all down in Denver this weekend, something Cathy Alexander noted.
“I truly think if we stay within our own head, meaning we control our excitement, and turn that switch on and off, I think we can do well,” the coach said. “I think we can break pool. From there, it’s anyone’s game.”
Vail Christian opens with No. 5 Wiley at 8 a.m. Friday. Then, it’s Simla at 3 p.m., followed by Fleming bright and early on Saturday.
Otis, the defending state champion, heads up Pool B, with Merino, Norwood and McClave.
In the meantime, the Saints should have some support down in Denver. There’s no school Friday, thanks to the volleyball team.
“The school is stoked,” Francis said. “We had a prep rally (Wednesday) and it was amazing. Everyone in the hallway is saying, ‘Good luck, good luck.’ The principal is giving out big high-fives.”
However it ends, the Saints are in the midst of a successful season.
“I am so proud of girls,” Alexander said. “I told them (Tuesday), even if they didn’t win one point, I couldn’t be more proud of what they’d done this year and how they’ve become a team. I truly think if someone were to get a scouting report on us, they would hear that we’re a really good team. Yeah, we might have one or two big hitters, but we’re a hard time to beat and we figure out how to win games.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
Class 1A state tournament
4. Vail Christian
Vail Christian vs. Wiley, 8 a.m.
Fleming vs. Simla, 9:30 a.m.
Merino vs. Norwood, 11 a.m.
Otis vs. McClave, 12:30 p.m.
Fleming vs. Wiley, 2 p.m.
Vail Christian vs. Simla, 3:30 p.m.
Otis vs., Norwood, 5 p.m.
Merino vs. McClave, 6:30 p.m.
Vail Christian vs. Simla, 8 a.m.
Otis vs. Merino, 9:30 a.m.
Wiley vs. Simla, 11 a.m.
Norwood vs. McClave, 12:30 p.m.
Semifinal 1 – Pool A No. 1 vs. Pool B No. 2, 2 p.m.
Semifinal 2 – Pool B No. 1 vs. Pool A No. 2, 3:30 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
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