Vail Mountain School volleyball bound for state
EAST VAIL — For those fans who did not drop dead from a heart attack, Vail Mountain School volleyball is going to the state tournament next weekend.
The Gore Rangers are off to the Denver Coliseum after stunning 16-25, 25-18, 25-17, 17-25, 15-13 over the Dawson School to win Saturday, Nov. 3’s Class 2A Region 8 Tournament.
VMS trailed 8-5, 10-7, 12-9, and 13-10 before rallying for a victory that nearly blew the roof off the gym in East Vail and sent the orange-clad Gore Rangers spilling onto the court to celebrate.
“It’s a dream come true,” VMS outside hitter Sarah Evans said. “We won our league tournament in eighth grade and we’re going to state our senior year.”
VMS (20-5) is making its first appearance at the state tournament since 2005. Earlier in the day, the Gore Rangers took care of business against Sedgewick County, 25-18, 25-8, 25-17.
“This is fantastic,” VMS coach Whitney Armistead said. “Getting through and making it to state, these girls deserved any minute of it.”
Meanwhile, down under …
It’s a little known fact that Gore Rangers volleyball is huge in Australia. OK, Oliver Pesso, a VMS alumnus, is studying abroad, and his parents, Gary and Tracy, were visiting.
Thus, Apple’s Facetime is quite helpful when keeping tabs on VMS volleyball and, in particular, setter Chloe Pesso. Yep, the Pessos were watching the match on an iPhone located in the south end of the gym.
“I’m sure they were freaking out.” Chloe joked.
Everyone in Vail Mountain orange was getting rather nervous. VMS seemed to be cruising with a 2-1 lead before two consecutive serving errors sent the visiting Mustangs on run to a 16-8 lead.
“I think we got a little comfortable, a little tired and kinda let that fourth set get away,” Evans said. “Once we were down seven points, it seemed like our minds were already on the fifth game.”
A simple strategy
Yes, VMS entered Saturday with a 3-0 record in matches that went the distance. VMS’ roster is headed up by five seniors with a lot of experience. But first-to-15 with the season on the line is scary.
It got scarier when VMS fell behind. Down 13-10, it’s pretty much closing time.
“I thought, ‘This is the end. It’s not going to happen,’” Pesso said. “We just started picking one point at a time. When I got back to serve line, I was like, ‘All I have to do is get it in. That’s all I have to do and we’ll deal with everything else later.’”
The Gore Rangers got a break with a Dawson serving error to make it 13-11. That sent Pesso to the line, where she was thinking, “Get it in,” which she capably did. And then the strategy was very elementary — get the ball to Evans and let her pulverize it. As the setter, Pesso runs the offense and has numerous options, but as she said, “When someone is on like that and she can hit the ball into the ground, I don’t know why you wouldn’t.”
By the time it was tied at 13, everyone in the gym knew the ball was going to No. 10. It didn’t matter. Dawson called two timeouts to try to break the momentum. It didn’t matter.
“We always pull it out,” Evans said. “Somehow, I had to trust in the team and that, somehow, if I focused and tried my best and trusted my teammates, that somehow we could pull it out. We did.”
Next stop: State
The top eight seeds, with VMS being No. 8, in Class 2A, advanced through their respective regionals.
Upsets flourished in the final four regionals. No. 16 Limon won Region 9; Lyons (15) took Region 10; Byers (14) cames out of Region 11 and Holly (13) topped Region 12.
If the rating-percentage index holds, VMS stays as the eighth seed takes on now No. 9 Holly on Thursday, Nov. 8, at 8 a.m., at the Denver Coliseum. The winner of that game would go on to face No. 1 Yuma at 2 p.m.
The official bracket will come out on Monday, Nov. 5, by which time, hopefully, everyone will have recovered from their respective heart episodes.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.