Vail Valley preps: Devils perfect after Day 1
DENVER — Most teams don’t have a good debut at the state tournament. But, then again, most teams aren’t Eagle Valley volleyball.
The Devils made it a 2-0 Friday at the 4A state tournament Friday at the Denver Coliseum, first sweeping No. 6 Thompson Valley and then grinding out a gutsy 17-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-23 victory over upset-minded No. 7 Longmont.
“That’s a testament to the girls, Devils coach ShawnWeatherred said of his team’s 2-0 mark Friday. “I think they believe they’re a good team.”
With a perfect Friday, the Devils sit atop Pool B at 2-0, followed by Durango and Longmont, both at 1-1 and Thompson Valley at 0-2.
The Devils play Durango at around 9:30 a.m. today. A win over the Demons assures the Devils a spot in this afternoon’s semifinals. A loss makes things complicated as far as tiebreakers go. Though Eagle Valley would likely go through to the semis, the Devils would rather not test that theory.
Taking a punch
Against Longmont, Eagle Valley showed it could take a punch. The Trojans zoomed out to a 15-4 lead and were looking good for their second upset of the day, having already toppled No. 2 Durango.
“Longmont took it to us in the first game,” Weatherred said. “We were missing a little here and a little there, but they were bringing it to us. What we talked about before the match was. ‘We’re at state. It’s a long haul.'”
Toward that long haul, Eagle Valley scored not only some points that made the Game 1 score look a bit nicer, but said tallies set the table for the final three games.
“They were a really good team, Devils middle-blocker Shelby Wright said. “Each person makes a mistake during a game. Each person earns a point for our team. I definitely think we played as team through the match both physically and mentally. It was really fun. We all had fun together as a team.”
Eagle Valley’s serving game, behind Shila Branch and Lauren Shreeve, started it in the second game, and the Devils gradually asserted themselves up front. One of the Devils’ adjustments to Longmont’s attack was Erin Burnett, who came off the bench to give the Devils a 22-21 lead. Alex Lassa and Kelsey VanGoey took it from there to tie the match at one.
More aggressive serving from Becka VanVoorst as well as a big block from Daillen Culver and more attacks from Lassa put the Devils up 12-7 in Game 3. Lassa’s performance was particularly impressive, given that she played all Friday with a stomach bug, and was clearly not at her best at times.
“I don’t feel well at all, but this is state, and you have to put it out of your mind,” Lassa said. “I just played my game.”
It got better as the Longmont game progressed. Eagle Valley pulled away in Game 3 behind a complete team effort, and then closed it out in the fourth with sheer mettle.
Branch served up an ace to tie it at 21. VanVoorst, VanGoey and Shelby Wright put down the last attacks and Eagle Valley was sitting pretty at 2-0.
Sweep of Thompson Valley
The Devils recorded a rare sweep in the 4A tourney Friday morning, defeating Thompson Valley, 25-22, 26-24, 25-22.
“It’s really great,” Culver said. “I think it boosts our confidence knowing that we can compete with them. We felt shaky at first.”
Eagle Valley did not look shaky in that first game – anything but. The Devils raced out to 12-3 lead and never looked back. Wright was on fire with aggressive serves to the Eagles’ back court followed by floaters which barely seemed to clear the net. Both were equally effective.
Culver, one of the unsung heroes for Eagle Valley all season, had a great match, including some kills in the first stanza.
“She’s been playing great,” Weatherred said. “From regionals on, she’s been playing really well in her role, occupying the middle.”
If there was anything wrong with the Devils winning Game 1 relatively easily, it was that Weatherred sensed a lull in the energy from his team in the final two stanzas. As the coach noted, one game is not a match, as seen by Roosevelt winning Game 1 from No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain. The Indians ended up winning in four.
But when push came to shove, the Devils had the answers. Thompson Valley was up 22-19 in the second, only to see Eagle Valley rally. Wright and Lassa combined for a block to tie it at 24. Lassa and Burnett combined for another to make it 25-24. Lassa slammed it home for the game-winner.
Shreeve’s great serving put the Devils ahead for good in Game 3. Lassa and Culver iced the match with kills.
The Devils will face a determined Durango team this morning. The No. 2-seeded Demons are 1-1 and must win to keep their state dreams alive.
If Eagle Valley wins, it clinches the pool, and plays likely either Skyline or Roosevelt in the second 4A semifinal at around 3:30 p.m. Either match-up would have a fun story line. The Devils defeated Skyline on the Falcons’ home court last weekend to win regionals. If it’s Roosevelt, that would be a rematch of last year’s regional game in which the Devils were eliminated from the postseason by the Rough Riders.
If Eagle Valley falls to Durango, its fate would go to a tiebreaker based on set-percentage won, which will be determined after today’s pool play is completed. The Devils would likely face two-time defending state champion Cheyenne Mountain in this scenario.
Lassa laid it out simply.
“I guess we just have to go in just as we did today, putting everything out on the court and just know that we can win,” she said. “We’re a good team.”
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