Vail Valley preps: Middle Park gets the jump on Devils
EAGLE, Colorado – Class 4A volleyball teams in the High Country would appreciate it if 3A Middle Park would start to pick on teams its own size.
After taking out 4A Summit County in its opener last week, the 3A Panthers knocked off 4A Eagle Valley, 25-19, 25-14, 24-26, 25-21 Tuesday night at Eagle Valley Middle School.
“It’s just really good. It’s a lot of really good motivation for our team,” Middle Park senior Elsa Krieg said. “We came out strong. We play a lot of weaker teams in our league, so this is a good starter for us. We really enjoy playing a lot of high-level teams.”
The defending Frontier League champions, Middle Park, ranked No. 9 in the state in 3A, jumped on Eagle Valley from the start and held off a comeback from the Devils in the final two sets.
“I give a lot of credit to Middle Park,” Eagle Valley coach Shawn Weatherred said. “That’s a good team, a really good team. The Labor Day weekend killed us in the first two sets. At that point, I think it was a little too much a little too late. They out-energied us, if that’s a word.”
Whatever verb one applies, the Panthers’ front of Krieg, and hitters like Shannon Stensvald and Cheyenne Hickox dictated the tone offensively, putting the Devils in a 2-0 hole.
“We run a pretty good offense for this early in the season,” Middle Park coach Jim Glenn said. “We’ve got some players. We’ve got good height which we haven’t had before. In the first two games, we came out strong and tried not to let them breathe.”
Eagle Valley rallied nicely in the third game and closed out the set with an excellent serve from Jamie Bair and an attack from Raechel Herridge.
“It’s always positive to win a set, whether or not you win the match or not,” Wetherred said. “It was good not to roll over when you’re down 2-0. It’s good to have some positives and maybe give yourself a chance to rally.”
Eagle Valley nearly did that in the fourth, but in the closing stretch of the set, Krieg’s place in the Panthers’ rotation was in the front three positions and the attack went through her, ending the Devils’ hopes.
The Devils’ slow start in the first two games was a point of concern for Weatherred after the match. Eagle Valley’s passing game for most of the match was out of sync after a three-day layoff because of the holiday.
“It’s a long match every time out. We just can’t ease into match,” the coach said. “We’ve got to start strong. That hurt us in a lot of ways. It’s early. Everything we did wrong is fix-able. It’s not a lack of ability. It’s more playing as a team.”
Eagle Valley (1-1) hosts 5A Grand Junction Central Thursday at 6 p.m. at Eagle Valley Middle School in its final home game before the new gym opens up in Gypsum. Middle Park is off until Sept. 15 when it opens Frontier play with a home match against Lake County.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.