Vail Valley preps: Devils spikers make Sweet 16
GYPSUM – The theme for Eagle Valley volleyball in the last few years has been working as a team. There is no one player upon whom opponents can focus – the Devils can beat you multiple ways.
But sometimes, it’s wise to go with KISS, which in this case will be “Keep it simple, superb volleyball team.”
In the final of the District 7 Volleyball Tournament Saturday against Montezuma-Cortez, Eagle Valley kept it simple – give it to Alex Lassa, a basic solution to a basic problem.
“They just didn’t have an answer for her,” Devils coach Shawn Weatherred said. “She was swinging hot, and so I can’t fault (setter) Becka (VanVoorst) for going there. But we did enough from the other positions to allow that.”
The Devils rode Lassa to 23-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-19 win over the Panthers, capping a 4-0 day (in just 13 sets) for their second-straight district title and third-consecutive regional appearance.
“It’s pretty phenomenal,” junior Kelsey VanGoey said. “It’s a great feeling that we can do this for a second year in a row.”
The district tournament presents not only a challenge in a team’s opponents, but a mental battle as well. The Devils were on campus starting at 6:30 a.m., games started at 6 a.m., and Shelby Wright ended things at 5:15 p.m. with an attack.
Eagle Valley’s veteran composure was on display as much as its deep talent.
“They’re just as tired as we are,” senior Daillen Culver said. “We all got here at 6:30 in the morning. It’s just whoever has the mental strength.”
And as Weatherred said succinctly with a hint of a smile, “But we’re lucky. We have 6-footers and they’re still 6 feet no matter how tired they are.”
Eagle Valley went about pool play in an efficient manner, dumping Summit County, 25-9, 25-13, 25-14, and Glenwood Springs, 26-24, 25-20, 25-18.
That put the Devils in the district semifinals against surprise-qualifier Palmer Ridge. This is where it got a little too interesting in last year’s tournament for Eagle Valley’s taste as the Devils went to five against Glenwood with their season on the line.
Saturday, happily, there was no drama. Eagle Valley dispatched the Bears, 25-10, 25-20, 25-20, clinching a regional berth easily.
“I’ve been sweating that game since Aug. 16,” Weatherred said. “That’s the one game all year that kills your chances whether you’re favored or not. It’s everything.”
Theoretically, the next absolute elimination game will be the state semifinals at the Denver Coliseum, and we can safely say that the Devils would gratefully accept that challenge were that to happen.
Though a spot in the Sweet 16 was assured, you get a nice plaque for winning districts and there’s seeding for regionals on the line. So Eagle Valley went to work against Cortez.
As is usual, Eagle Valley showed another phase of their game. With VanVoorst bolstering a stiff defensive effort, VanGoey ended up setting numerous shots. Not many squads have a “second” setter like that.
“We’ve played together in club and school for so long that we’ve all become really well-rounded, so we know how to do different things,” Culver said. “We can do different things when asked.”
Now Eagle Valley (21-2) plays the waiting game. By winning districts, the Devils are assured of a top-eight seed in next weekend’s regionals. The big question is whether the Devils make the top-four and get to host.
Weatherred is going on the assumption that defending state champions, Cheyenne Mountain, will be No. 1, and that Thompson Valley gets No. 2. After that, well …
“I hope so,” VanGoey said. “It would be very nice.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.