Vail Valley sports: What we learned from the fall
Not everything has a happy ending – not in life nor in sports.
We had three volleyball teams going to regionals Saturday – Eagle Valley, Vail Christian and Vail Mountain – all looking for the magical state berth.
All three came away empty – in the state tournament department.
They have an abundance of riches, however, in wins (a combined 55), skill and maturity beyond their years.
The Devils showed that their league title and postseason run in 2008 were absolutely no fluke. The Saints came out of nowhere, winning their league in only their second year as members of it. And the Gore Rangers battled the infernal flu for a good part of the season, only to win the district tournament when the whole gang was together.
Yes, wins and losses are important in high school sports, but more important are the lessons learned through hard work, adversity and the team experience. The result is that Eagle County has a lot of quality student-athletes on these three volleyball teams.
That’s the biggest win of all.
And as the fall season closes, two important thoughts to share. The first is that it is not easy to win a league title, much less defend one.
With the success of the Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies and Saints as of late in assorted sports, particularly in the fall, it’s reasonable to think that championships come easily.
Hold it right there.
Obviously, you have to have talent, but there is so much more. If we went on talent, your 2009 Slope soccer champ is Battle Mountain. (This is not a knock on the Devils, the Huskies or champion Steamboat. Keep reading before yelling at me.)
You need a lot of work.
You need health. Of note here, Eagle Valley cross country gets the flu for regionals, while VMS volleyball was a shell of itself for a good portion of the season. And we haven’t gotten to sports injuries such as Huskies soccer’s David Gonzalez or the rash of knocks that hit Eagle Valley football. And that’s just the beginning of the list. I could write a whole “what if” column on injuries.
You need chemistry. Hello, Eagle Valley and Vail Christian volleyball.
You need coaching. Well done to Devils soccer coach Jason Rittmiller for moving from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2. (That made some of you spit out your Wheaties.) Props go out to our volleyball coaches of the teams noted above. Also a shout to Huskies cross country’s Ken Long for reinvigorating the program.
You need luck. We’re talking a goal instead of a crossbar (Huskies soccer). A break from the refs (Devils soccer, and I’m more thinking about the homer P.K. in Glenwood, but offsides is good, too). A turnover or three for either Devils or Huskies football (in this case, to win a few more games, but you get the idea).
You need the special players – say like Parke Robbins and Connor Tedstrom, Brigitta Gehl and Charlie Grant, Kieran Hurtt and Brooke Bowles, Jamie Bair and Marco Escobar. (And there are a ton more.)
Try getting all of this to happen at once in one season, and you’ve got a championship team. Now get it to happen twice, and you repeat. The problem here is that student-athletes tend to graduate. (Darn kids these days, going to college.) The eight athletes I just listed are, in fact, seniors.
It only looks easy.
All of this should make you salute Devils volleyball for going back-to-back, not to mention the Saints spikers for their 2A Slope crown.
We should also appreciate what Huskies cross country (four-time regional champs), Devils soccer and Saints football did in attempting to defend their titles this fall. For the harriers, you just can’t win every year. Life goes on, and the future is bright. For Eagle Valley soccer, you may not have won league, but you’ve always got Wheat Ridge, which was as big as they come. Saints football? You guys came together, and just look for who can stay within 38 points of Merino. (Here’s a hint: Round 1 of the state playoffs: Merino 63, Holly 8.)
And, yes, I sound like a broken record here, yet props should go out to Battle Mountain soccer (league champs, 2004-07), cross country (girls state champs in 2005 and boys champs 2006-07) volleyball (2005-07 league champs plus a state title.) As we’ve seen in the context of this season, those teams were ridiculously special and you can e-mail me all you want about a so-called Huskies bias here.
The next chapter
Hope springs eternal in the world of preps sports.
This fall, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School made the soccer playoffs. For those who don’t follow 3A soccer, trust me, who would have thought we would have lived this long?
Roaring Fork soccer beat Kent Denver in Round 1 of the state playoffs. (The sound you just heard was groaning from both Vail Mountain and Battle Mountain soccer.)
Delta football is 8-2 and going to the playoffs. The Panthers’ last postseason appearance was 1999.
And, yes, Battle Mountain football beat Eagle Valley.
It was a rough season for Battle Mountain volleyball, Eagle Valley football and softball, VMS soccer and ever-suffering Huskies football.
But if CRMS, Roaring Fork and Delta can do what they did and Battle Mountain football can beat Eagle Valley, all things are truly possible.
It’s why we can’t wait for next fall, and even more, why we’re ready for basketball, hockey, wrestling and skiing.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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