Vail Valley preps: Eagle Valley ready for state
GYPSUM – At 4:47 p.m. Tuesday, the classic tune from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” rang out in the gym at Eagle Valley in Gypsum.
It was volleyball coach Shawn Weatherred’s cell phone. Weatherred answered the phone and put it on speaker as all 13 Devils spikers yelled out “Hi, Sarah” to the coach’s wife.
“They have fun with me and I have fun with them,” Weatherred said. “They’ve learned about sarcasm real fast with me and they give it right back. We have a good rapport.”
The Devils are a tight-knit team heading in many ways, heading into Friday and Saturday’s state tournament down at the Denver Coliseum. It’s not just the synergy among the starting regulars. It’s all 13 varsity players.
Then, there are the bonds among players and coaches, players, coaches and fans, players, coaches fans and families, all of which have been building toward this weekend.
Enter senior Lauren Shreeve, the fourth of her clan to suit up for Eagle Valley volleyball – Jennifer, Class of 1998, Mindy 2001 and Kenzie 2005 – dating back to 1994, with parents Jeff and Susan.
“I wanted to follow after them because they did so well,” said Lauren, who has probably been going to Devils games since she was in a stroller. “Kenzie did phenomenal. I just wanted to be like them, but I enjoy it so much. I just love it.”
“The main reason we went to state is that so Jeff could have another daughter go,” Weatherred deadpanned. “He told me, ‘No pressure.'”
This is Eagle Valley’s fifth trip to state, and for the trivially-inclined, the third-straight with a Shreeve – Mindy in 2000 and Kenzie in 2002, the Devils’ last appearance. The Devils also went as a 2A squad in 1980 and 1981.
The first thing for which a state newcomer needs to prepare is that nothing prepares a team for the state tournament. Club volleyball, in which many of the Devils are well-versed, has multiple courts, lots of noise and errant volleyballs, but state is when you’re playing for your school and your community.
That said, Eagle Valley likes its draw in the tournament as the No. 3 seed in all of 4A volleyball. Not only does it leave no room for debate – all in black and red think it’s fair – but it also lines up the Devils with Thompson Valley Friday at approximately 11 a.m.
“Some of the girls have gone and watched from the stands, but until you step on the court, you don’t really know,” Weatherred said. “It’s a good draw with Thompson Valley because they’re new to the scene, too. It benefits both teams equally because we’ll both probably have jitters.”
Thompson Valley was the No. 3-ranked team until the Eagles fell to Mullen in regionals. Now, Pool B is No. 2 Durango (Saturday at about 9:30 a.m.), Eagle Valley, Thompson Valley at No. 6 and No. 7 at Longmont, whom the Devils face at roughly 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Thompson and Longmont went 1-2 in the Northern Conference with the teams splitting their two league matches. The North is generally the best league when it comes to the state tournament. It’s important to remember, though, that the North used to be a 16-team league, which broke into two circuits recently.
The “new” league is the Tri-Valley, won by none other than Skyline, the fifth seed, which Eagle Valley defeated in five on the Falcons’ home court last weekend during regionals. This is a long way of a saying that the Devils don’t think there is a behemoth in eight-team state field.
“It showed us what we could do,” libero Shila Branch said. “Skyline is one of the best teams we are going to face out there. We were relaxed and we went out and played.”
Cheyenne Mountain heads up Pool A as the two-time defending state champion with No. 4 Mullen, which is an enigma, playing mostly a 5A schedule. Skyline and Roosevelt, whom the Devils met in regionals in 2009, round out that quartet.
“Hopefully, they realize that they can compete with anyone in 4A,” Weatherred said. “Granted, you have to play well at state because everyone’s good, but there’s no one we can’t compete with.”
‘Not reinventing the wheel’
The Devils got Monday off and returned to work Tuesday. Like a good student before finals, Eagle Valley isn’t putting in a new package for state. Weatherred is trying to keep things as normal as possible before heading down to Denver.
“We’re not reinventing the wheel in the next three days,” he joked.
Practice remained lively Thursday as the Devils’ hitters took their shots at the defensive unit. With players like Alex Lasse, Shreeve, Shelby Wright, Daillen Culver and Kelsey VanGoey pounding away, it’s good practice for what the Eagle Valley defense will see this weekend.
“We have quite a few hitters on our team and I love being on the opposite side of the court from them,” Branch said. “They give me great practice. I know their hardest hit, and if I can’t get it up, I can at least touch it. The harder you hit, the more I’ll try to get under it.”
This is also where Eagle Valley shines when it comes to being a team. Yes, most people know Becka VanVoorst is the setter and Branch is the libero, the latter being easily-identifiable by a different jersey.
Bur this is where Erin Burnett, Ciara Rulon, Ana Pavlova, Haley Hutton and Maddy McGinty earn their stripes, making the team better in practice.
“The rest of the girls help out more than you can imagine,” Branch said. “Haley is one of them. If I get off the court and I’m down, she’ll keep me up, telling me what I’ve done well and what I can work on. We need them just as much as we need anyone on the court.”
Like any squad, Eagle Valley wants to finish the season by playing in the championship match at 7 p.m. on Saturday, but however it ends, one thing is for sure. Jeff and Susan Shreeve will have to figure out life after volleyball.
“They enjoy it, but I don’t know what they’re going to do after it,” Lauren said. “It’s been 17 years. They have fun. They’ll probably find new things to do. But I have basketball coming up.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
4A state tournament
1. Cheyenne Mountain
3. Eagle Valley
6. Thompson Valley
(Note: All games roll after the conclusion of the previous match. Times are approximations except that play both days starts at 8 a.m. and Saturday’s final is fixed for 7 p.m.)
Mullen vs. Skyline, 8 a.m.
Cheyenne Mountain vs. Roosevelt, 9:30 a.m.
Eagle Valley vs. Thompson Valley, 11 a.m.
Durango vs. Longmont, 12:30 p.m.
Cheyenne Mountain vs. Skyline, 2 p.m.
Mullen vs. Roosevelt, 3:30 p.m.
Durango vs. Thompson Valley, 5 p.m.
Eagle Valley vs. Longmont, 6:30 p.m.
Cheyenne Mountain vs. Mullen, 8 a.m.
Eagle Valley vs. Durango, 9:30 a.m.
Skyline vs. Roosevelt, 11 a.m.
Thompson Valley vs. Longmont, 12:30 p.m.
Semifinal 1 – Pool A No. 1 vs. Pool B No. 2, 2 p.m.
Semifinal 2 – Pool B No. 1 vs. Pool A No. 2, 3:30 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.
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