VMS, Saints shoot for regionals at districts
Alfred Hitchcock would have just loved this volleyball tournament.
There is more local intrigue and suspense to this year’s 1A District 1 Volleyball Tournament than ever before.
Come Saturday in Delta, it’ll likely be three teams contending for two spots in regionals. The first actor in our play is Mountain League Champion DeBeque (9-1, 17-2), regulars at the district, regional and state tournaments. The second-seed in the tournament is the Vail Mountain School (8-2, 9-8), the two-time defending district and regional champion.
And, entering from stage right, are the new kids on the block, Vail Christian (7-3, 9-8), who are having a breakout season.
“This is a heated competition,” Vail Mountain’s Aubrie Apple said. “We all love to play each other and we’re all so close in (competitive) level that it makes for really fun games.”
“It should be really competitive,” VMS coach Mike Garvey. “We obviously have three teams at the top separated by one game and only two of them get to go. So, it should be a fun tournament.”
The drama here is that both Vail teams could be the ones, moving onto regionals in Gunnison.
“Hopefully, it will work out where the two of us go on,” Saints coach Cathy Alexander said. “One of us is going to have to beat DeBeque to go. That’ll be dealt with when we play our first match.”
Vail Christian’s first match should be a doozy, but more on that later. DeBeque, by virtue of its No. 1-seed, has the easier road to crossover play. The Dragons are in Pool A with No. 4 Ridgway and No. 6 Ouray. If the bracket plays out as it should, DeBeque and Ridgway should move on to the district semis.
That leaves the Gore Rangers, Saints and Norwood. According to the Rocky Mountain News, Norwood is 1-11. The Mavericks, who play the VMS at 10:15 a.m., and Vail Christian at 3:15 p.m., don’t figure to be a factor. Which means it comes down to what Cathy Alexander called, “our first match.”
Vail Mountain vs. Vail Christian, Round 3.
The Gore Rangers won the first meeting in five games. Earlier this month, Vail Christian beat VMS in a great four-game match, in which the last three games were decided by two points each.
The winner of this game gets a big advantage in the road to regionals. The winner gets to play Ridgway for a spot in regionals. VMS and Vail Christian are a combined 4-0 against Ridgway. The loser of the Vail Christian-VMS game faces DeBeque in the semis. VMS is 1-1 against DeBeque. Vail Christian is 0-2 this season against the Dragons.
VMS vs. Vail Christian
This is officially a rivalry. Vail Christian saw to it by beating the Gore Rangers for the first time earlier this month.
“I think the win just solidified to these girls, even though they’ve won all season, that they are winners and they can play with the big kids and they can still win,” Alexander said. “I think what we’re looking at is some confidence, going in with the idea that we can win.”
The Gore Rangers have to feel equally confident. On their side of the ledger, they have postseason experience.
“I think there’s a little bit of an expectation there. That can be helpful,” Garvey said. “Perhaps, there’s a little bit of an aura that the Vail Mountain School has because of what they’ve done in the past. But, I think these girls, to their credit, aren’t thinking about what they’ve done in the past. They’re looking at it, saying, “What’s gone is gone, and we’ve got to take care of business today.”
Alexander is aware of this factor. Vail Christian didn’t even make regionals last year and has gone two-and-out each time the Saints of past years have gone.
“I’m trying not to deviate from what we’ve done all year. Just keep on going,” Alexander said. “This game means just as much as any other game and we try not to deviate. We try to be very consistent with what we do, so that they know that they’re good at what they do and build that confidence.”
Then, there’s the familiarity between the two teams.
“We know where certain girls hit, what spots they like to hit,” the Saints’ Brooke Horan-Kates said. “You know where they hit, where to block them, where to be on defense, where they serve. Cely (Brinkmann) jump-serves. So, we’re ready to get under the ball for that. Knowing how they play is a good thing.”
And, there’s no doubting that VMS has the same book on Vail Christian.
The DeBeque factor
The loser of the Vail Christian-VMS game will likely have to go through DeBeque. The Dragons are ranked No. 6 in 1A, and have the most state appearances of any team in the 1A Mountain League.
Vail Christian took DeBeque to five games last weekend, so the Saints aren’t far behind the Dragons.
“It’s really keeping up the intensity up on our side because they don’t let many balls drop,” Alexander said. “So, you just have to keep hitting and hitting and you can’t let that frustration level come in. “What do I have to do to score that point?’ Eventually, that comes in at any point, but we have to be mentally tough to keep that from happening.”
At VMS, Garvey is matter-of-fact. It doesn’t matter who. The Gore Rangers just have to beat either DeBeque or Vail Christian to go to regionals.
“We know we’re going to have to defeat one of the two teams,” he said. “We’re just going to focus on the things we’re doing. We’re taking a look at our side of the net, what can we focus on – our serving percentage, our hitting percentage. We’re just going to try to keep things simple, focus on our game and not worry about what other people can or cannot do.”
In a situation where the two local teams could be battling for one spot, one thing is interesting. Unlike other sports, the Gore Rangers and Saints are rooting for each other this weekend.
Coaches and players alike are hoping for a Gore-Rangers-Saints district final.
“I think it would be great. I think it would say a lot about volleyball in the valley. You’ve got Eagle Valley that’s having a good season. Battle Mountain’s had a good season,” Garvey said. :We’ve got an opportunity, with all the teams in the valley, to make a statement and let people know that the Vail Valley has some pretty good volleyball.”
“You just want to see the people in your area do well for people to realize you’re coming from a strong area,” Alexander said. “It’s not just a fluke that you’re there.”
Chris Freud is the sports editor for the Vail Daily. Contact him at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.