Steamboat Springs Most coaches would agree the road to the state volleyball championship is treacherous at best but getting to the final match this weekend at the Denver Coliseum will mean going that extra mile.
"It's a tremendous challenge for any team," Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said of winning a title. "We don't have a better chance than the other teams of winning, but our chances are not any less, either."
Hall said the field of 4A teams at this year's state tournament is well balanced with most of the teams in a neck-and-neck battle for the title. Hall said a key will be taking the tournament one match and one game at a time.
"It's very overwhelming if you look at the entire picture," Hall said. "But if you take it one match at a time, then things don't seem that bad."
The first task facing the Sailors today will be a tough team from Berthoud, which is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. After that, Steamboat will turn its attention to Fort Morgan (2:15 p.m.) and then to Summit County on Saturday (9:15 a.m.). If all goes well there, the Sailors will focus on semifinal and championship matches that will follow later in the day. The 4A championship match will take place at 4:45 p.m.
Rifle coach Beth Sass has a unique view of Steamboat's first match of the weekend since the Bears have played both Steamboat and Berthoud this season.
"Berthoud is a very solid team," Sass said. "There isn't any one player that stands out. They are just real tough from outside to middle."
Sass' Bears fell to the Berthoud Spartans at the regional tournament in a 15-10, 15-12 match.
Berthoud is an experienced team with five seniors in the rotation. Five-foot-11 senior Amy Corder will lead the attack. Corder has recorded more than 200 kills in 57 games this season.
"They don't have any really big players; they're pretty average in size. Steamboat should match up well," Sass said.
The Rifle coach said she thinks the key for Steamboat's success will be in receiving serves.
"They (Berthoud) serve the ball really, really well," Sass said of the Spartans.
The Rifle coach said she is pulling for the Sailors to do well in Denver. The Bears advanced to the regional tournament, but finished third in the final standings.
"Steamboat has a strong team and they are there (at the state meet) for a reason," Sass said. "I hope they do well."
The state tournament began in Denver today at 8 a.m. The Sailors left on Thursday afternoon and Hall expects the team to arrive in plenty of time to prepare for a big first day.
In addition to Berthoud, Steamboat will also face the Fort Morgan Mustangs in pool play. The Mustangs are 11-3-0 in league play and 23-3-0 overall.
They are led by a big outside hitter in Jessica Hammerich, a 5-11 senior who has recorded 200 kills this season and 21 blocks in 46 games. She has also collected 31 aces.
Fort Morgan fell to Berthoud back in September in a two-game set.
Fort Morgan is also packed with top senior players, including middle hitters Angie Kaufmann, Tara Baumgartner and Shondel Weimer. Senior outside hitters include Hammerich, Farin Pape and Gennifer Westoff.
The other side of the bracket includes Montezuma-Cortez, Mullen, Lewis-Palmer and Pine Creek.
Hall, who has coached the Sailors at seven state playoff appearances, said she has high hopes for this year's team and said if the Sailors play their best, she feels they can compete with all of the top teams in the state.
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org