Vail Valley preps: Devils make a state-ment
LONGMONT – Eagle Valley volleyball is going to the state tournament.
But after Saturday’s Region C Tournament, the Devils will not be going the Denver Coliseum to make an appearance. Eagle Valley didn’t just earn an invite to the dance. The No. 6 Devils knocked down the door, going 3-0 Saturday, including a five-set win against No. 3 Skyline on the Falcons’ home court.
“They had the home-court advantage,” Devils senior Shelby Wright said. “They had their student section cheering and their cheerleaders. We had each other and our parents. We went out there and proved we are good team that can do great things together.”
It is Eagle Valley’s first regional volleyball title at the 4A level and the first since 2002 when the 3A Devils beat Centaurus, 15-2, in a one-game playoff back when sideout scoring was still used.
It’s also the fulfillment of a three-year quest – making state – for this group of Devils who, in that time, have won three league titles, two district crowns and now one regional championship. (Partridge in a pear tree sold separately.)
“It’s an unreal feeling,” junior outside-hitter Alex Lassa said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s a huge relief to accomplish that goal. We did it. It finally happened for us.”
“I’m really proud for them,” coach Shawn Weatherred said. “I think it’s been a long road. There’s been a lot of hard work. They really stepped up to the plate. We were a little nervous at first, but we played together as a time. It was a whole 13-player effort.”
Revenge against the Cyclones
The day started with some unfinished business. Eagle Valley went to regionals last year and finished out of the running for state with a 1-2 mark. The costly loss for the Devils, also ranked No. 6 last year, was to No. 11 Pueblo West.
Since CHSAA apparently has a sense of humor, the Devils met up with the Cyclones Saturday, this year in the regional opener. There would be no upset this time as Eagle Valley prevailed, 29-27, 25-20, 25-16.
“(That) really made a difference, “Wright said. “To beat the team that prevented us from going to state was a good beginning to the day. It set a good tone, and for those of us who played last year, it meant a lot.”
And it gave the Devils focus. Next up was a familiar face in Palisade and Eagle Valley dispatched the Bulldogs, 25-13, 25-14, 25-20. At 2-0, the Devils were exactly where they wanted to be.
They watched Pueblo West and Skyline play. The Cyclones won Game 1 before falling in four to the hosts. Skyline moved to 2-0 with that win and officially clinched a state berth for Eagle Valley.
That was nice, but it was more important for Eagle Valley to see the Cyclones take a game from No. 3 Skyline. The Falcons were definitely beatable.
“It was up for grabs to win regionals,” Wright said. “There is no bigger motivation than knowing that we have to play our heart out to accomplish something. That’s the best motivation we could have.”
Eagle Valley didn’t celebrate after Skyline beat Pueblo. The Devils celebrated after 25-21, 17-25, 25-15, 21-25, 15-3 win over the Falcons. The Game 5 score is not a typo. Eagle Valley took it to Skyline in the decisive stanza.
And with that, it is off to state, though the Devils do get Monday off from practice, a well-deserved reward. By winning the regional tournament, Eagle Valley is assured of a top-four seed in this weekend’s state tournament.
No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain won Regional A, so the Indians, also the defending state champs, will go in as the tournament’s top seed. After that, it gets messy. Mullen, which drops down to 4A for the postseason, upset No. 2 Thompson Valley in Regional B for that title. No. 4 Durango took Regional D on its home court and, of course, the Devils at 24-2, won C.
Who gets No. 2 is the question when the bracket comes out today on chsaa.org? Mullen has a lot of name recognition, but does a 13-12 overall record, despite playing 5A during the regular season, vault the Mustangs to No. 2? Durango probably gets the edge over Eagle Valley because of common opponents. Both teams have beaten up on Montezuma-Cortez, but the Demons have a win over Grand Junction Central.
“Probably No. 3 or 4,” Weatherred said.
In the meantime, beating No. 3 Skyline Saturday gives Eagle Valley a bit of a swagger, going into state.
“We’re not just going to state to be there,” Lassa said. “We’re going there to put everything in and win.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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