With a title, Saints are back in control
Vail, CO Colorado
EDWARDS ” In a footnote to Saturday’s win, the Vail Christian volleyball team took the league title ” for the second year in a row.
For the Saints, Saturday’s three-game victory over Crested Butte in Edwards ” their third win in a row since losing last Saturday ” was more of a sign that they are back on track and primed for districts.
One night after beating rival Vail Mountain in five games, Vail Christian overcame a slow start to down Crested Butte, 25-21, 25-20, 25-21, finish the season 17-2 and clinch the 1A Mountain League.
“The girls knew there was a bit of a letdown, but one of the things we needed to work on is that we are going to be playing match after match next weekend (at districts) and there could be some big matches where we need to transfer from match to match to match and be able to keep that intensity level up,” Vail Christian coach Cathy Alexander said. “They did what they had to do to win today and that was good.”
And, yes, Alexander is quite pleased with back-to-back titles.
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“I’m very happy,” she said. “And what I love about this team is that it’s really a team. We don’t rely on one player.”
The Saints celebrated the win like it was any other one.
“We’re sill looking past it, but it’s exciting to see how far we’ve come, too,” said Vail Christian outsider hitter Sammantha Francis.
Even with the slow start Saturday, the Saints played smart volleyball and let the Titans’ serves and attacks sail out of bounds.
“We lacked a bit of energy in the first two games, and even a bit in the third game early on,” Francis said. “But we were finally starting to pick up a lot of their dumps to the middle and were able to get really good hits off them. It was exciting and the whole team really came together.”
In the third game, Vail Christian trailed, 18-15, then went on an offensive tear and closed things out with two Kirstin McGinty kills, the final one right on the back line.
“They ended with more momentum than they started with,” Alexander said. “We earned our points, especially those last 10. We decided we’d get back out there and start hitting.”
On defense, the Saints didn’t allow many balls to hit the ground, and often put them right back into system.
“We’ve been working on that, having on person go in front and one go behind, so there are always two people going for every ball,” Francis said. “It worked well.”
As has been the case all season, the Saints spread the ball out on offense. McGinty led the team with 10 kills, while just about every other player tallied a few. Francis had a great match hitting.
“She has been very strong for us in the last few matches coming in,” Alexander said. “With my outsides Sam and Allie (Parker) today, I tried to give them equal playing time. Fortunately I have three outsides I can put in at any time and don’t see a drop.”
The win capped off a week that saw the Saints go 3-0 after having to deal with a difficult internal situation. Last Friday, assistant coach Jamie Allen was arrested for having an “inappropriate sexual relationship” with a female student, according to a report by the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Allen, who taught theology at Vail Christian and also coached girls’ soccer, sent a letter of resignation to Vail Christian late last Thursday night.
While Alexander didn’t want to comment on the situation, she thinks her team has responded well.
“I think they decided to let their volleyball skills define who they are,” Alexander said.
Last Saturday, the Saints dropped their first league match in two years, falling to Ridgway in three games. Alexander said she was a a bit nervous about a playing three games this week.
“In hindsight, yes, I was a little worried to begin with,” she said. “But we were able to get out there and play and release a lot of frustration and just play. It was great.”
And now the Saints are ready for districts, where they’ll have the opportunity to avenge their only league loss.
“We’re going to come out firing against (Ridgway) because they’ll probably be in our pool,” Francis said.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or email@example.com.