Vail Christian spikers head to Olathe
EDWARDS – Vail Christian’s McKenzie O’Brien is hoping to turn the great town of Olathe into her backyard.
“I’m thinking about being focused, just being ready and on my toes,” the Saints libero said. “As Coach would say, ‘I want to run my backyard.”
Running the backyard is Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander’s and O’Brien’s expression for feeling comfortable in back receiving an opponents’ attack and directing the Saints forward, and hopefully, toward four wins this weekend in the Class 1A District 1 Volleyball Tournament Friday and Saturday in Olathe.
The Saints (16-3) were a surprise last year in the 2A postseason – CHSAA’s biannual count moved them down to 1A for the playoffs this fall – making regionals. This year, the goal is to feel like they’ve been here before and take the ultimate step, an appearance on the floor of the Denver Coliseum for state.
“I think the girls realize what it’s going to take,” Alexander said. “When I have gotten harder on them in practice, they now understand why.”
In the huddle, before regular season games, Alexander has been drumming in the point that every game is “must-win.” Starting Friday, they pretty much are.
The Saints are the top seed in Pool B. The ideal course of events would be Vail Christian winning their pool by beating Plateau Valley or Ouray – one of these two teams will win their way into the district tourney Friday mourning; likely Plateau Valley – and then dispatching Dove Creek.
Vail Christian would like to see Pool A also break to form with Norwood, the 800-pound gorilla in the tourney, going 2-0, and North Park finishing second. That way, the Saints play North Park, a team they’ve beaten twice, with a berth to regionals on the line in the semis, and play Norwood with merely regional seeding at stake in the district finals. (The top-two teams in each district advance to regionals or the Round of 16.)
The Saints are 2-0 this season against Plateau Valley, but Alexander issued the standard sports cliche about how tough it is to beat a team three times in a season. Dove Creek is 10-9 and has two 6-foot middles. This is where Alexander discussed the fact that the Saints beat Hayden with its size. As mentioned, the Saints swept North Park, and we go back to the three-times cliche.
The intriguing match in Olathe would be the Saints and Norwood, preferably in the finals with regional berths already clinched.
With the caveat that everyone in Saints’ blue and silver is focused exclusively on the first match Friday, this would be fun to see. Norwood handed Vail Christian one of its three losses this year at the season opening tournament down in Plateau Valley.
“I honestly can’t wait until we play that team again,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to do much better this time.”
In the meantime, leave it to the Saints setter to draw out the path for the postseason.
“Yes, we’re talking about (state),” Kylie Alexander said. “We have a great chance of going. Paris (Baker) and Gracen (McGuckin) are really stepping it up. We have a really good chance, being in a different pool with Norwood. We could go all the way to state with Norwood. That’s what our goal is.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Class 1A District 1
Plateau Valley vs. Ouray, 11 a.m.
Vail Christian vs. P.V-Ouray winner, 1 p.m.
North Park vs. Nucla, 1 p.m.
Dove Creek vs. P.V.-Ouray winner, 2:15 p.m.
North Park vs. Nucla, 2:15 p.m.
Vail Christian vs. Dove Creek, 3:30 p.m.
Norwood vs. North Park, 3:30 p.m.
Pool A winner vs. Pool B No. 2, 9 a.m.
Pool B winner vs. Pool A No. 2, 10: 15 a.m.
Fifteen minutes after second semifinal