Vail Mountain spikers rally for District 5 crown
MEEKER, Colorado – The way this season went, districts couldn’t have gone any differently for the Vail Mountain School.
That’s how the Gore Rangers roll.
After a regular season of inconsistency because of the flu, a fully-healthy VMS volleyball team saw four of its five mataches this weekend go the full five games, and played 23 out of possible 26 sets.
And naturally, VMS fell behind 2-0 to Rangely in the District 5 Tournament finals Saturday, only to rally for a dramatic 15-25, 16-25, 25-12, 25-19, 15 -10 win, a district title and a spot in regionals next Saturday in Palisade.
“This was a special one,” VMS coach Mike Garvey said of his school’s fourth district title. “This team was not predicted to finish on top. They didn’t finish on top (in the regular season). But this team believed in themselves. The moment when that last point went down was special. You could see the kids realizing that they were capable of achieving their goals.”
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It was also not lost on the Gore Rangers – especially because Garvey used this as motivation before the title match – that they are returning to regionals for the first time since 2005. And since this year’s seniors were in eighth grade the last time VMS made it to the Sweet 16, that’s another feather in their collective cap.
The Gore Rangers went five games against West Grand (25-14, 19-25, 25-22, 12-25, 15-7) and Hayden (21-25, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16, 15-11) in pool play, setting up a showdown with Vail Christian, which split against the Mustangs and Tigers.
The Saints beat VMS, 25-21, 19-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13, leaving West Grand and the two Vail teams deadlocked at 2-1. West Grand won the pool based on a better winning percentage in sets. That left the Gore Rangers and Saints to play a one game playoff for the district semifinals, which VMS won, 25-14.
The Gore Rangers just rolled in the semifinals, crushing Paonia, 25-18, 25-18, 25-14, making amends for a five-set loss to the Eagles during the regular season.
Rangely edged West Grand in five in the other semi, winning the finale, 19-17, but seemed to have plenty of energy left over for VMS, winning the first two games of the final. Even in Game 5, the Gore Rangers managed to make it interesting, falling behind 5-1 before rallying for the win.
VMS (15-9) flew on to the court to celebrate, and in retrospect, the adversity of the regular season likely aided the team this weekend.
“Things happen for a reason,” Garvey said. “The adversity we had created depth because we had to play people when others were out. You could go down the list of everyone who contributed this weekend.”
Saints off to regionals
MEEKER – Protection is good thing. It’s also a difficult thing.
Vail Christian volleyball entered thisweekend’s District 5 volleyball tournament protected, meaning that the Saints were going to regionals no matter what happened because they won the 2A Slope title outright during the regular season.
That came in handy when West Grand upset the Saints, forcing a three-way tie for two semifinal spots after pool play. The Saints lost a one-game playoff to VMS, and were eliminated.
Vail Christian lost to West Grand in four, swept Hayden and beat VMS in five games in pool play. The major development that was that senior Beri Dwyer twisted her ankle in Game 2 of the VMS match and was done for the tournament.
Coach Cathy Alexander expects that Dwyer will return for Saturday’s regional tournament in Palisade.
“The girls definitely learned they can’t go into a match assuming their going to win,” Alexander said. “Against West Grand, we weren’t completely prepared. We beat them in three during the regular season. They have a phenomenal outside hitter and we shut her down. They were playing for their lives and we didn’t have the right mentality.”
Vail Christian (19-3) and VMS are off to regionals Saturday.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.