Spikers face off with Bears in crucial match

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— The Steamboat Sailors volleyball team made up for a recent setback when it defeated the Middle Park Panthers in a three-set match Monday at Granby.
Steamboat, 6-2 and 13-2, rebounded from an upset loss to Palisade Saturday at the Sailors' homecoming match.
Steamboat now is second in the Western Slope 4A division behind Rifle, which owns the top spot in the league with a 7-1 and 12-3 record. The Bears lost their first conference match of the season on Saturday when they were defeated by Moffat County. The Sailors and Bears meet at 6 p.m. Thursday for a crucial league battle in Rifle.
Against Middle Park, Steamboat was led by Jessica Johnson, who blasted the Panthers for 13 kills. Jessica Fritz was on fire, too, as she finished with 11 kills. The Sailors gave the first match to the Panthers after an exciting 14-16 finish but rebounded in a hurry as they won the final two games 15-7 and 15-9.
Maggie McElhinney rocked the crowd in Granby with an 18-18 serving effort and a 28-assist performance.
The win over the Panthers, Johnson said, was a major victory for her Sailors squad. Middle Park is 13-3 and 5-2 in the Metropolitan 3A conference.
"I'm definitely satisfied with the win just because our last three home games have been kind of tough, and we haven't played to our full potential," Johnson said. "We realized that when we have fun, we play real well."
Fritz, who says her team may be playing better ball on the road this season, looks forward to the challenge against the Bears.
"I think that we just need to concentrate more on the mental aspect of the game," Fritz said. "Our heads just weren't in the (Palisade) game, and we just weren't focused. I think that will be the key in these upcoming games."
Johnson said the Sailors will bring to Rifle an improved blocking game and a more aggressive defense.
Steamboat's Bayli Stillwell, meanwhile, said her team is eager to tie up the first-place spot in the league.
"We're pumped to play them and we hope that all our hard practice this week will pay off in the game," she said.

To reach Eric Rineer call 871-4229 or e-mail erineer@amigo.net

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