With a wall, Devils sweep past Palisade
Eagle Valley vs. Battle Mountain Saturday at 1 p.m.
Eagle Valley volleyball is building a wall in Gypsum and it’s a good thing, no matter what side of the political aisle one is on.
Eagle Valley cruised by Palisade, 25-12, 25-15, 27-25, on Friday night during the Devils’ home opener.
League wins are nice. Beating Palisade in volleyball is generally a good win and local volleyball fans have to be thrilled that this is the final year of a MacAskill sister (Kendyl) in a maroon Bulldogs jersey.
The MacAskill sisters have made a living wearing out both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain volleyball, so the Devils and Huskies can actually agree on something before they face each other Saturday in Gypsum.
Regardless, the thing about which Devils fans should be cautiously enthusiastic is that the team is building a block at the net and it was quite good against Palisade, usually a pretty good-sized team with a bunch of power.
“I’ve been working on my block forever,” senior middle Eli Wetzel said. “During club, my No. 1 priority and job is to stop the ball. I’ve gotta be the wall.”
Net play was Eagle Valley’s downfall back in the 2019 season, which now feels like it happened back in 2015. Going into the memory machine, a lack of a consistent block was the major problem last season, which saw the Devils go from two-time Slope champions to the middle of the pack.
Middle-blocker Shelbi Lubbers went down early and then famine, plague and pestilence descended — after 2019, Devils volleyball shouldn’t experience an injury until 2023 — upon Eagle Valley and that was the season.
“It was something I looked at last year,“ said Mike Garvey, who is in his first year at the helm at Eagle Valley after serving as the JV coach in Gypsum, not to mention extensive head-coaching experience at the Vail Mountain School. (He started and built the program from scratch.)
“We’ve been doing a little positioning work on the block and some technique work. They were outstanding tonight.”
And the “kids” like junior Emily Hinchliffe, who is new to varsity, are picking it up from the vets as they go.
“Eli and Claire (Whelan) and Garvey helped me,” Hinchliffe said. “We’re all just learning it together.”
So call them out — Wetzel, Whelan, Hinchliffe, Sofia Rinn, Kylie Hughes and Evie Geddes-Boyd.
Now Garvey was the first to say that blocking doesn’t exist on its own. It’s part of a complete team effort that goes all the way back to the defensive specialists, including libero Olivia Fedrizzi who had the hustle play of the night with a superb pass during the second set that originated closer to the Eagle Valley parking lot than the court.
With the win, Eagle Valley upped its record to 4-0 overall and 1-0 in the Slope. While 4-0 doesn’t seem like much, the Devils are already past the quarter mark of the regular season. Welcome to a warp-speed season, people.
Another reason all in Eagle Valley’s camp are excited about the possibility of a consistent block is that the other elements seem in place. As noted, defensive specialists were hitting the deck and digging the ball out. Setter Avery VanGoey is running the offense with aplomb.
And the Devils generally don’t lack for big boppers and this year is no exception. On that count, Devils fans, how nice is it to have senior Sophia Rinn back and healthy?
Eagle Valley has no time to rest as Battle Mountain comes to town for a roughly 1 p.m. start on Saturday.