Volleyball (or any other) is not a year-long sport | VailDaily.com

Volleyball (or any other) is not a year-long sport

Chris Freud

As we survey the high-school volleyball landscape, one thing is apparent for the first time in at least three years.

No team ” Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Vail Christian or Vail Mountain ” has a pre-destined road to the state tournament in Denver come November.

In 2005, the Huskies started the year ranked No. 5 in the state. While I thought that was high, it turned out that Brian Doyon had a pretty good crew of juniors, and they went to the Coliseum.

By 2006, it was a mortal lock that the Huskies would return, and as I recall, they did pretty well. Vail Christian was along for the ride that year, and was pretty much a cinch for the Barn on Brighton last year. As it turned out, the Huskies also made their third straight state appearance as well.

And let us not forget VMS. The Tree teams ” aka Lara Bossow, Maggie Haslee, Julie Littman and Tiffany Allan ” in 2001 and 2002 were safe money for Denver, not to mention the 2005 edition of the fab freshmen who became seniors ” Aubrie Apple, Lindsay Wright and Cely Brinkmann ” in 2005.

And yes, I hear you down in Gypsum. The Devils made it in 2002, though that was a surprise.

We’re sort of used to watching/and or covering volleyball in November in Denver. In fact, we’ve been spoiled by our local teams. Areas, like ours, just don’t send teams regularly to Denver like we’ve done recently.

Battle Mountain should be near the top of the 4A Slope by the time the dust settles. Whether Eagle Valley is in the hunt depends on whether its talented athletes can come together as a team.

VMS and Vail Christian are in the same league again with the Saints moving up to 2A. Both should hold their own against bigger-sized competition.

But the thing I’d really like to see this year and in the future in local volleyball is the end of specialization, and more young ladies playing multiple sports.

Double-edged sword

Battle Mountain’s run in 2006 was a blessing and a curse at the same time. Make no mistake ” this was one of the most amazing teams I’ve covered in my 11 years here ” 2000 VMS soccer, 2003 Vail Christian football and the recent Battle Mountain soccer and cross country teams are on this list. (Note to Gypsum: I don’t cover the Devils on a day-in, day-out basis, so I can’t make the call here.)

These girls worked tirelessly, and elevated their play to another level. That’s cliche, but it’s true. When you went to a game, the Huskies were playing one form of volleyball, and the other team was doing something else.

Everyone who was at the 2006 state tournament remembers the Sterling game, which pretty much decided the title. Remember though, that Battle Mountain still had to play two more matches, and the Huskies were so good they made Cheyennne Mountain and Mountain View just look plain poor.

This team’s legacy not only includes a nifty championship banner in the gym, but the idea that girls sports are on a par with their male counterparts. Volleyball games became “the place to be” because of these ladies and matches are still an event.

The downside of this team is that since most of the players on the 2006 team decided to focus on volleyball solely and a won a state championship with the major stars on that squad getting scholarships to college, now a lot of volleyball players in the county think they can do the same.

Taking nothing away from all the work these young ladies put in, 2006 was also one of those years when everything came into place. Not only did you get a sensational bunch of people ” it never ceased to amaze me how these girls would go out and nearly take an opponent’s head off with a volleyball and then step off the court and be the model of decorum ” but you also essentially had four Division I athletes on one team coming from what is a very small part of the state.

(For the record, the only Division I volleyball school to which Nicole Penwill applied was Harvard and it didn’t have the common sense to accept her. My father, Yale undergrad ’63 and law school ’66, has another reason to dislike the Crimson. Had Penwill had other academic priorities ” she’s pre-med at Washington at St. Louis, way to go, Nicole ” she likely could have gone on to play D-I. Britney Brown’s at Northeastern, Crystin Rodrick at Colorado State and Sofia Lindroth’s at James Madison.)

Throw in coach Doyon, who was perfect for this team, and the Talcotts (Karl and Lisa), and all the elements were there.

Making a decision

While it is always tempting to envision Brown, Rodrick, Lindroth, Penwill or Devon Abbott, for that matter, playing basketball ” watch out, Moffat County ” these girls made the correct decision in specializing in volleyball. They were talented at the high school level, which is one thing, and have that extra something that makes them Division I material. Their decision is paying for their education. Well done, ladies.

However, there only a few athletes each year who can afford to make this decision. The problem is that not everyone who plays high school volleyball (or any other sport) has that extra something to make it to D-I, no matter how hard they work, no matter how many summer camps they attend and no matter how many club programs in which they are enrolled.

Just look down Interstate 70. Likely the most sought-after athlete by colleges this year in the Slope is going to be Glenwood Springs quarterback Dakota Stonehouse. As both the Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley football teams saw last year, he has a great arm, speed and is the best quarterback in the league in quite a while.

Stonehouse does not specialize in football even though the scuttlebutt is that he could be going somewhere big for his football skills. In the winter, you can see him playing guard for the Demons on the hardwood. Come spring, he’s on the track team and a regional hurdles champ.

That should be the model.

I can’t really tell you if the Huskies, Devils, Saints and Gore Rangers are going to be successful come November, but a better gauge will be their actions after the season is done.

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

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