Steamboat in first after Rifle loss

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— For the third-straight year, the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team has earned the Western Slope Conference's top seed for the district playoffs and the conference title.
Steamboat, 10-2 for the season, won its last two conference games last week by knocking off Moffat County on Thursday. The Sailors also topped Battle Mountain in a 15-1, 15-1 match Saturday. The two-game sweep helped the Steamboat girls team earn first place.
"We got a bit of luck last week when Palisade knocked off Rifle," Sailors head coach Wendy Hall said.
Rifle and Steamboat had been tied at the top of the conference standings at the start of the week with the Bears holding a narrow one-game advantage over the Sailors in the first tie-breaker.
But the Palisade win gave the Sailors sole possession of the conference title by beating Rifle. Rifle finished the season at 9-3 and had been struggling the past few weeks in conference games.
The Sailors, on the other hand, are hoping the squad's recent wins will give its players a boost headed into the district playoffs, which will begin in Glenwood Springs Friday.
Steamboat will have the top seed and face No. 5 Montrose and a red-hot Palisade squad in pool A. Palisade earned the No. 4 seed thanks to the Sailors' win over Battle Mountain on Saturday. The final team in pool A will be determined this week in a pigtail game between Delta and Battle Mountain. Hall expects Delta to take the No. 8 seed, however.
Montezuma-Cortez will take the No. 2 seed and have No. 3 Rifle, No. 6 Moffat County and No. 7 Glenwood Springs in pool B.
Last week, Steamboat posted two big wins.
On Thursday, the Sailors topped Moffat County behind a strong performance from Katie Carter. Carter had six of Steamboat's eight blocks at the net. She also had four kills in the match.
Jessica Fritz led Steamboat in kills against Moffat County with nine. Jessica Johnson also had eight kills in the game. Maggie McElhinney had 21 assists in the contest.
"I was really, really pleased with the way we played in the game," Hall said. "Our block was strong at the net and our players were really, really focused on the game."
On Saturday, the Sailors wrapped up the regular season with another conference victory. In that match, the Sailors rolled by Battle Mountain 15-1 in the first game and then held them off 15-11 in the second to secure the victory.
Johnson had nine kills and Bayli Stillwell collected seven.
"It was her best conference game of the season," Hall said of Stillwell. "We've been waiting for her to have a match like this, and it is really nice to see her coming around at this point of the season."
Hall said Stillwell's offensive production helped the Sailors attack the Huskies from both sides of the court and played a key role in the win. Stillwell also had four assists in the contest. McElhinney 18 assists in the game.

To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail jrussell@amigo.net

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