Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs senior Jessica Johnson and her Sailor teammates are planning on making good use of the next four days.
"The thing I'm most excited about is having five more days to practice and get better," Johnson said after an intense practice at the high school. "We have some things we still need to work on and get better at this week. But I know we can do it."
Steamboat finished second at last weekend's district tournament in Glenwood Springs and kept the volleyball season alive for another week. Steamboat opened the tournament with three straight wins in pool play over Delta, Montrose and Palisade. The Sailors knocked off Rifle in the semifinals to earn a shot at Montezuma-Cortez and a district title.
But the Panthers beat Steamboat in two games to take the district's top honor. Montezuma-Cortez will host the Region D tournament this weekend.
The Sailors, on the other hand, will board a bus this Saturday and head to Brighton for their shot at a state berth in the Region C finals. The Sailors will be joined by the top-ranked Mullen Mustangs, the Brighton Bulldogs and the Pueblo Centennial Bulldogs. Times for the matches were unavailable at press time.
"From here on out, there are no weak teams," Sailors coach Wendy Hall said. "We need to go down there and play three solid matches. If we can do that, then I think we can break into the top eight teams in the state."
The top two teams from four regional playoffs will advance to the state championships on Nov. 10 to 12 in Denver.
"This weekend will be a good opportunity to see one of the top teams in the state," Hall said of Mullen.
The Mustangs play a 5A schedule during the regular season and then drop back to 4A for the playoffs.
"I know we can compete with this team," Hall said. "If we play at our top level, I don't think there is a team in the state that we can't compete with. We just need to maintain that level from here on out."
Johnson said she knows her team can compete, and the key is going to be sharpening the details this week in practice.
A majority of those details will focus on Steamboat's defense in particular the team's blocking game.
"The block and our defense is a big thing," Johnson said. " If we can make one big defensive play it can turn things around in a hurry."
To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org