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VMS spikers aiming for Denver in 2004

Preston Utley/Vail Daily Vail Mountain volleyball coach Mike Garvey watches over practice Thursday at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards.
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VAIL -Technically, the Vail Mountain School volleyball team’s name is the Gore Rangers. But a name change might be in order.That’s because their old home court, The Peter Abuisi Center, is a muddy plot of earth lying to the west of school’s ever expanding new campus.VMS will have all of three home games at assorted middle schools and two quasi-home games at Vail Christian. Otherwise, it’s hit the road, Jack, er, Cely, Lindsay and Aubrie and company for their 14 other contests.”Most of the players just said, ‘Tell me where to be,'” said VMS coach Mike Garvey, who’s starting his eighth season at the helm. “And, that’s really where were at. It really doesn’t matter to us whether it’s home or away because our goals are beyond those kind of things. The idea is that all of this can make us stronger if we approach it positively.”Of course there’s some virtue to travel. The Gore Rangers/Nomads/Road Runners/Voyagers ultimately hope to be road-tripping in November – to the state tournament in Denver.”My philosophy is that should always be the goal,” Garvey said. “We always talk about it. We talk about it in two different ways. We talk about the ultimate goal being playing our best volleyball. But, I believe that you have to set your sights on that. You have to be looking to say that this where we want to be. Some years are a little more unrealistic than others, but I think we’ve set a standard for this program that this is where we want to be.”

Finding an identityVMS is coming off a 12-10 2003 campaign, which ended at districts at the hands of DeBeque. The season was by no means a failure, but paled in comparison to the two previous seasons when the Gore Rangers steamrolled to state berths.Last year’s team was perhaps unfairly compared to those state teams. It’s not everyday that Lara Bossow, Maggie Haslee, Tiffany Allan and Juli Littman walk through the door.Or is it.VMS has another solid group coming through, led by juniors Aubrie Apple, Cely Brinkmann, Lindsay Wright. All three were all-league last year, and they’ve emerged from the shadows of VMS past.”I think they did a wonderful job of coming into their own, and that took some time,” Garvey said. “I think again that’s going to help us this year because that shadow isn’t around anymore. So, it is definitely much more of a clear picture this year and a true identity.””It’s great that we have another chance to come through and really pull it through this time,” Apple said. “We have a lot of new girls, so it’s great to see the program expanding.”

Expanding numbersThe Gore Rangers return all but one starter, Lauren Utzig, this season. Apple, Wright, Brinkmann, Katie Wear, Zoie Liotta, Lara Green, Miranda Farley, Della Elich, Kelsey Ferguson, Janelle Kibler-Silengo, and Georgia Wettlaufer are all back.Throw in 10 new freshman and it’s clear that VMS volleyball is developing as a program. For the first time, VMS will field three teams – varsity, junior varsity and freshman. Getting all these young ladies playing time bodes well for the future of the program.But the future at the varsity level is now. With a tough schedule – 1A VMS opens at a tournament at 3A Aspen and plays 4A Moffat County and 2A Meeker and West Grand – you can expect a bunch of five-setters. And, that’s where fitness is coming in during camp.”Last season, basically, we got too tired too quickly,” Brinkmann said. “So, we’re really working on our endurance. When it’s the fifth game and the other team’s tired, we’re the ones who need to prevail. I think we have a really good chance this year.”A tougher league



The 1A Mountain League looks to be stronger this year. VMS will play both of its games against archrival, DeBeque, on the road and the two teams, at least on paper, are the favorites to take the league’s two regional berths.That, of course, was the same case last year, and Vail Christian’s emergence threw that scenario out the window. The Saints came out of nowhere, and it was DeBeque and Vail Christian who went to Gunnison.The Saints figure to be in the mix along with an improved Crested Butte team. Garvey also has his eye on Ridgway as a sleeper.”That’s great to be able to have competition with every team in your league. It only makes you a better team,” Garvey said. “Ultimately, if you’re playing in the postseason, and you’ve played a competitive league schedule, that can only help you. I think we’re going to have more teams battling for top positions rather than just being a few teams (in the lead) and the rest of the teams dropping off.”The road begins in Aspen on Labor Day Weekend. One year from now, the road will be shorter, as the Gore Rangers move into their new digs.”Hopefully, it’s one of those things where we go into that new gym with a little hardware,” Garvey said.Chris Freud is the sports editor of the Vail Daily. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 614, or via cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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