Sailors return to state finals with lofty goal

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There is just one more major volleyball tournament on the high school schedule this season, and the Steamboat Springs Sailors will be there.

"We've been playing some great volleyball," Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said. "From what I've seen in practice the kids are still working hard and trying to get better."

Steamboat finished second in last weekend's regional tournament in Brighton and will be one of eight teams to advance to the state championships this week at the Denver Coliseum.

Steamboat downed Brighton and Pueblo Centennial at the tournament to finish with a 2-1 record. The Sailors' only loss came to top-rated Mullen. Both teams will advance to this weekend's state tournament.

"Everybody is excited to get back," Steamboat's Jessica Fritz said.

The senior outside hitter was a sophomore the last time Steamboat visited the state championships in 1998. Steamboat finished second in the 4A division that year to Fort Morgan.

This time around, Fort Morgan (23-3) will be the No. 1 seed in pool at the tournament. Berthoud (22-4) will be the No. 2 seed and Steamboat (23-4) will be the No. 3 seed. The final team in pool II will be Summit (20-5).

Montezuma-Cortez (23-1) will be the top seed in pool I and Mullen (21-5) will be the No. 2 seed. Steamboat lost to Montezuma-Cortez to place second at the district tournament two weeks ago and lost to Mullen to place second at the regional tournament.

"It was a good experience," Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said of playing Mullen at the regional.

Hall said the Mustangs played a style of volleyball the Sailors haven't seen this year. She hopes playing Mullen will give her players the experience they need to be successful against the eight other teams that have advanced to state.

There are only two teams in pool A that Steamboat hasn't seen this season. Lewis-Palmer (21-6) and Pine Creek (20-7) will round out pool I.

"These are the best teams in the state," Hall said. "So we know that every match will be a challenge."

Play in the state tournament will begin at 8 a.m. Friday in Denver. Montezuma-Cortez and Pine Creek will meet in the first match of the day. Steamboat is scheduled to play in the fourth match against Berthoud. Steamboat will also face Fort Morgan in the sixth match on the opening day. While the times vary greatly at the state tournament, Steamboat athletics director Steve Moos estimated the first match would begin at 11:45 a.m. and the second at 2:15 p.m.

On Saturday, Steamboat will return to the court for the final match of pool play at about 9:15 a.m. against Summit.

The top two teams from each pool will be cross-bracketed in the semifinal matches on Saturday. The two winners will advance to the championship match at 4:45 p.m. Saturday.

"All of the teams are very good at this point of the season," Hall said. "We are going to have to play our best, but after last weekend I think we know that if we play our best we can compete with anyone."

Fritz said all of the players are excited about getting back to state. "I can't describe what it is like to play at the state tournament. It's one of the most exciting things I've ever experienced."

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