Vail Valley preps: Devils fall in five in semis
DENVER – What do you say at a moment when a state-title dream has vanished?
What do you say when there are 13 sets of understandably-red eyes looking at you in a small circle underneath the stands of the Denver Coliseum?
What do you say when the team you feel you should be playing in the state final is doing their warm-up rally within a 100 feet of you?
“There’s nothing you can say,” Eagle Valley volleyball coach Shawn Weatherred said softly after talking to his players. “We had a tough break. We lost our captain and our emotional leader and it’s tough. We stayed in it and we fought. We gave it our best. At this level, we’re not as deep as some of these schools so we can’t afford to lose someone of Shelby’s caliber.”
Having won their pool earlier in the day by beating No. 2 Durango at the 4A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum, the No. 3 Devils volleyball team was seemingly cruising, leading Roosevelt in the state semifinals, two games to none (25-23, 25-22), until senior middle-blocker Shelby Wright went down in a heap, rolling her right ankle.
Roosevelt rallied, winning the final three games, 25-19, 25-19, 15-13 to advance to the finals, instead of the Devils, ending Eagle Valley’s magical season.
“She means so much,” Eagle Valley setter Becka VanVoorst said of Wright. “I don’t even think she knows how much she means to this team. She’s a great player. I love her.”
“There’s nothing you can do about it,” Weatherred said. “Injuries are a part of sports. We play sports because of the risk. Sometimes, you do get hurt. You can’t help it. Sometimes it stings, but it would sting a lot worse if you couldn’t do it to begin with.”
Cheyenne Mountain, the two-time defending 4A champs, made it three in a row by sweeping Roosevelt in the final.
The Devils were visibly shaken by Wright’s injury. Trailing just 15-13 in the middle stanza when Wright went down, the Devils were clearly off their game.
Wright went back into the staging area underneath the stands to receive treatment. She tried walking the injury off behind the Devils’ bench during Game 3. She even returned to the match briefly at the start of Game 4, but she was definitely moving gingerly.
Weatherred substituted in Maddie McGinty and Erin Burnett in Wright’s place in the rotation, and they both played well. Yet the margin for error by the time gets to the state semifinals is so thin, and the Rough Riders had grabbed the momentum.
Nevertheless, Eagle Valley rallied in the fifth game, taking leads of 8-4 and 10-6 and was tied at 12 and 13 before Roosevelt took the last two points.
“The girls realized Shelby’s not going to be out there, so we have to go out there and play,” Weatherred said.
“You can’t say enough about these kids and the effort they’ve given me since Day 1, unbelievable. It’s a great bunch of girls. As coaches, we’re just lucky to be a part of it. They took us on a ride all the way to the Coliseum here at 6:30 at night (on Day 2 of state) and it started on midnight on Aug. 16.”
Eagle Valley started the day with an impressive win against No. 2 Durango, dismissing the Demons, 25-12, 24-26, 25-21, 25-20. Technically, the Devils earned the top spot in Pool B by winning just Games 1 and 3 – via a set-win-percentage tiebreaker – but the coaching staff obviously didn’t tell the Devils that, and Eagle Valley continued its power display.
For most of the match, Eagle Valley looked crisp all-around, but this was the first clear sign that Alex Lassa was looking much healthier than Friday when she had a stomach bug. She put on a clinic.
Lost in Lassa’s demolition derby of the volleyball all over Durango was a small move Weatherred made in Game 3. The Devils were trailing, 14-8, when the coach switched out McGinty for Lauren Shreeve in the back row.
Weatherred wanted Shreeve to focus exclusively on her net play and needed a little kick-start in the serving game. McGinty delivered, sparking the Devils’ rally. Eagle Valley outscored the Demons, 17-7, from there in the third.
“Maddie came in and did a phenomenal job in serving to spots and spaces, Weatherred said. “The thing I told her a while ago is ‘I might need you to serve on the spot, and you’ve got to do it.’ She did.”
“It feels good,” McGinty said. “Obviously, I was a little shaky at first, but I figured out that I had to go for it. If feels really good. I think sometimes a team needs a new energy on the court and I really try to be that person when our team needs it.”
The Devils got a long rest between pool play and the semifinals. Durango, Thompson Valley and Longmont all finished at 1-2 in Pool B, which resulted in two one-game playoffs to determine who would play Cheyenne in the semis. Thompson Valley ended Durango’s season, 25-14. Longmont finished out Thompson Valley, 25-20, for a date with the Indians.
While the Devils didn’t get the prize they sought, the golden-ball trophy, this year’s volleyball team was easily one of the most memorable and accomplished teams to come out of Eagle Valley in quite a while.
The Devils finished with a 27-3 record, winning their third consecutive 4A Slope title. They won the District 7 Tournament for the second year in a row, In their third appearance in as many years in the Sweet 16, they won the school’s first 4A regional title. Only the 1981 edition of Eagle Valley volleyball advanced further in the state tournament, finishing second, back when the Devils were competing at the 2A level.
Saturday was the final volleyball appearance for seniors Shila Branch, Shreeve, Wright, VanVoorst and Daillen Culver.
“I’m so proud of this team.” VanVoorst said. “It’s such a privilege my senior year of volleyball to be here and I thank my team so much.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
Support Local Journalism
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User