Steamboat Springs When Steamboat Springs High School's volleyball season opens in Glenwood Springs tonight, the Sailors will have plenty of lofty ambitions, but will be without a starting setter.
"Maggie (McElhinney) will have to sit this one out," Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said.
McElhinney will have to serve a one-match suspension in the Sailors first volleyball contest of the season against Fruita because she received a disciplinary red card in the Steamboat Springs High School girls soccer team's final game last year against Montrose.
Yes, it's true, the volleyball team will be penalized by the Colorado High School Activities Association for a penalty assessed in a soccer game.
"It wasn't anything flagrant," Hall said. "I guess she used her hands in the goalie's box in the soccer game and in soccer that's an automatic red card."
McElhinney received the red card, and was ejected from the game, after being called for a handball on what the head official decided was an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.
In soccer, a red card forces the player out of the current game and the player's next varsity contest. Steamboat was on the losing side of a 1-0 score in the game with Montrose, so its soccer season came to an abrupt end.
Unfortunately for McElhinney, the red card will be enforced in her next varsity contest. In this case, that next contest isn't soccer, but volleyball.
"Anytime a player is ejected they must sit out the next contest at the same level," CHSAA's Judy Barnett explained. "The idea is not to penalize the next sport, but to enhance the sportsmanship in all of high school sports. The rule is not perfect, but it addresses a problem."
While McElhinney's red card was not a sportsmanship issue, Barnett said it is very difficult for CHSAA to make exceptions to the rule that is clearly stated in the by-laws.
The bad thing for the Steamboat Springs volleyball team is that McElhinney's suspension will come at the start of a busy weekend for the team, and deplete an already thin roster.
Steamboat will open the season at the Glenwood Springs Tournament, competing against Fruita tonight without a setter. McElhinney is being forced to sit out, and Hall recently lost her backup setter, Ashley Rogers, who decided not to play volleyball this season.
The good news for the Steamboat girls is that McElhinney will be back Saturday for the final two-thirds of the tournament, which includes matches against Eagle Valley and Abraham Lincoln High School.
"I don't know anything about Fruita," Hall said. "I know they are a 5A school, so this will not be a walk in the park."
The team will make a few adjustments to the starting lineup, but Hall admitted that she hasn't spent a lot of time preparing her team for the match without McElhinney.
"It's just one match, so we can't change everything we are doing," Hall said.
Instead, she will ask her younger opposite hitters to step in and fill the void.
Bayli Stillwell, Abby Fritz and Lizzy Sack will alternate the responsibilities against Fruita.
"I think this will be an opportunity for some of our younger players to show us what they have," Hall said. "If they come in and do their best I think this team has enough talent to pick up the slack."
The Sailors first game against Fruita will begin at 4:30 p.m. in Glenwood. The team will play Eagle Valley at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Lincoln at noon.
The tournament will be broken into divisions after the end of pool play Saturday. All of the teams in the tournament will advance to a guaranteed semifinal game, either championship or consolation, at 2 or 3:15 that afternoon.
The Sailors are hoping to use the tournament as a warmup for the conference opener on Tuesday against Rifle.
"They (Rifle) were the regional champions last year, so it's sure to be a good match," Hall said.
The Sailors split with the Bears in the regular season last year. Steamboat, however, was defeated by Rifle in a one-game playoff at the regional playoffs. Rifle went on to the state finals and the Sailors headed home with a few bitter memories.
"There is no doubt that our players will be looking for some payback," Hall said. "But this Rifle team will be very good. They return almost everybody including the conference's most valuable player, Lisa Samuelson. It should make for some exciting volleyball."
Matches against Rifle will begin with the freshman at 4 p.m., junior varsity at 5 p.m. and the varsity game at 6 p.m. All of the matches will be held at the Steamboat Springs High School gym.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209