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Vail Valley volleyball: Districts start today

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The 2A District 5 Volleyball Tournament starts in Meeker today with Vail Christian as the top seed and the Vail Mountain School in the No. 4 slot. Eagle Valley, the 4A Slope champ, hosts the 4A District 7 Tournament as the No. 1 seed, and who should be in the Devils’s pool, but No. 4-seeded Battle Mountain?

The top-two teams from each tournament advance to regionals a week from Saturday and only Vail Christian is assured of a spot – more on the Saints’ specific situation later. All this means that there’s a lot of big volleyball on tap for the next two days with both local rivalries in play.

Vail Mountain and Vail Christian meet today at about 4:30 p.m. (We insert our traditional postseason-volleyball disclaimer here that times are completely guess-work.) Meanwhile, the Devils and Huskies hook up at about 11 a.m. on Saturday in Gypsum. Naturally, all parties involved in these feuds have taken the high road, not wanting to make bulletin board material.

But each team – be they Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies and Saints – must answer a particular question if they are to be successful this weekend. So we start with the 4A Slope champs, Eagle Valley.

Devils

Eagle Valley enters as the proud two-time defending champion of the 4A Slope, and the rightful favorites in District 7. The one cause for concern is how Eagle Valley (15-4) ended the season with consecutive losses to Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs last week.

So how do the Devils snap out their mini-slide?

“We don’t remember what happened last season. We refer to the postseason as the new season and it started with practice on Monday,” Devils coach Shawn Weatherred said. “For us, it’s just going about our business and playing the way we know how, slowing everything down and playing one point at a time. We don’t worry about last season quote-un-quote.”

But last season, by which we actually mean 2008, brings up another interesting point for the Devils. One of the things Weatherred discussed at the beginning of 2009 was that he felt his team, despite its tremendous success, was drained both mentally and physically come the postseason.

Now that this postseason is here, he feels the Devils are better-prepared.

“Talking to the girls, they don’t think it’s a shock to be hosting districts,” Weatherred said. “They’re not overly-excited to be here. It’s, ‘We’re at districts where we should be and here’s what we need to do.’ Last year, we won the 4A league for the first time and spent a lot of emotion doing that. This year we clinched early, and I think you saw that emotional release. We’ve had time to rest and regroup.”

Huskies

While Eagle Valley lost its last two matches, Battle Mountain finished on a high note in the regular season avenging an earlier loss to Glenwood and beating Rifle. Yes, the latter is pretty perfunctory for all Slope teams, but the downing of the Demons showed Battle Mountain’s tantalizing potential despite its 7-12 record.

So Battle Mountain’s question is “What does it take for the Huskies to put it all together when it counts?”

“It’s going to take extreme focus from these girls,” Huskies coach Lara Bossow said. “The girls were dedicated to winning at the end of the regular season. They found it, their niche. When they play focused, level-headed volleyball, they win. That’s the answer.”

While Class 4A districts are structured as a waterfall, intended to sprinkle teams throughout the state, CHSAA structured District 7 essentially as an old-fashioned league tournament to minimize travel. Eagle Valley has a legitimate beef about this arrangement, as did Battle Mountain when it was the league champ from 2005-07, but there are no complaints from this year’s Huskies.

“I kind of like it,” Bossow said. “There’s a little bit more we know about who we’re playing. I don’t know about our cross-over game except that Glenwood is a possibility. That’s a nice little bit of comfort.”

Saints

Vail Christian is in new territory today and Saturday. By winning the 2A Slope outright, the Saints have the glorious protected tag around their collective necks. No matter what happens this weekend, Vail Christian (17-2) has a guaranteed spot in regionals.

Given that they’ve never been protected, how do the Saints approach this weekend?

“What I told the girls is that this weekend we are working for next weekend,” Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander said. “This is an in-between stop for next weekend and going to regionals. We’re going to have to step it up for regionals, regardless of how strong the other district (which forms the regional) is. Mancos is 15-3, which is not too shabby. The have a 6-(foot)-1 middle and big outside (hitters). There are things we’re working toward.”

Those who have followed Saints volleyball know that Alexander would rather undergo root-canal surgery than look ahead, but again, this is new territory for Vail Christian. She’s also dangling seeding for regionals in front of her team as motivation.

If the Saints were to win districts, they’d move from No. 2 to No. 1 in regionals.

Gore Rangers

The story of Vail Mountain’s season has been the flu. VMS was short-handed for most of the first half of the season and that’s one of the main reasons the Gore Rangers enter districts at 11-8.

VMS is healthy and at full-strength, making it the wild card of the District 5 Tournament. What can VMS do at full strength?

“Everyone looks at scores and quite a few teams had close matches with West Grand and North Park,” VMS coach Mike Garvey said. “We took care of both of them in four games. They can also look at some of our other matches and maybe not think too highly of us. There are a couple of ways you can look at it.”

Make no mistake though, VMS looks at this weekend as its possible coming-out party. Garvey likes being the fourth seed, starting today with West Grand and Hayden. If things go by seed, Vail Mountain and Vail Christian would be playing each other with both teams already having assured themselves spots in Saturday’s semifinals.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.

Class 4A District 7

At Gypsum, Saturday

Seeding: 1) Eagle Valley; 2) Rock Canyon; 3) Glenwood Springs; 4) Battle Mountain; 5) Valor Christian; 6) Moffat County.

Local schedule

Pool I, Main gym

Eagle Valley vs. Moffat County, 8 a.m.

Battle Mountain vs. Moffat County, 9:30 a.m.

Eagle Valley vs. Battle Mountain, 11 a.m.

Semifinals, 1:15 p.m., main and auxiliary (old) gyms

Finals 3 p.m., main gym

Class 2A District 5

At Meeker, Friday and Saturday

Seeding: 1) Vail Christian; 2) Rangely; 3) Paonia; 4) Vail Mountain; 5) West Grand; 6) Soroco; 7) Meeker; 8) Hayden.

Local schedule

Friday’s games

Pool 1

Vail Christian vs. Hayden, 9 a.m.

Vail Mountain vs. West Grand, 10:30 a.m.

Vail Christian vs. West Grand, noon

Vail Mountain vs. Hayden, 1:30 p.m.

Vail Christian vs. Vail Mountain, 4:30 p.m.

Saturday’s games

Semifinal No. 1, 10 a.m.

Semifinal No. 2. 11:30 a.m.

Final, 1 p.m.


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