Glenwood Springs Steamboat battled for every point Saturday night as it fought to hold onto its status as the lone champion of the Western Slope League. But Glenwood Springs kept pounding back to come away with the win and a share of the Western Slope title.
In the second showdown of the league's top-ranked teams with even records, it was the Demons who came out ahead this time in front of an energy-charged home crowd.
Strong serving by the Demons and critical errors by the Sailors made all the difference in a match that saw Steamboat drop just its second match of the season, 15-8, 15-12.
In the final game, the Sailors kept it close most of the way, trailing just 10-9 at one point. But the Sailors' offense would trigger two out-of-bounds hits and one net ball while the Demons' Amber Sutherland would add two key kills to help her team increase its lead to 14-10.
But as the Demons neared the
game-winning point, the Sailors got a side-out after an Abby Fritz kill into center court. The Sailors tacked on another point when a Sutherland block fell short of the net.
When Steamboat's Katie Carter went up for a block and Glenwood's Lindsay Kuhn tipped the ball out of bounds, the Sailors moved within two points of the Demons.
But on the next side-out, the Demons put the game away as the Sailors couldn't play the ball off a Demons' hit.
"I felt like we competed well, we didn't get out hustled, we were working as hard as we needed to," Sailors coach Wendy Hall said. "But, we made too many hitting errors, too many passing errors and the serves that we missed were at critical times in the game."
Coming into tonight's match, Hall's biggest concern was slowing down the Demons' powerful middle hitter, Sutherland. Throughout practice this last week, Hall focused on preparing her girls for Sutherland's high-powered offense.
"Amber has been working really hard. (Steamboat) triple-blocked Amber, but she is just a good player. In the last few games, she struggled, but has been able to play her self out of it," Demons coach Michelle Guillot said.
It was not Sutherland who caused the Sailors the most trouble, Hall said, but outsider hitters Alicia Hayes and Sheena Gruber.
"We knew (Sutherland) would make some big plays. We just wanted to slow her down enough to beat them. I never felt like she took over the game," Hall said. "But, we didn't shut down the outside hitters. Those were the kids that hurt us."
Although the Sailors were just about even in blocks with the Demons, Hall said it was the unforced hitting errors that plagued her team, which amassed 11 for the night.
Strong serving from the Demons was also key as they served up six aces and only had three failed serves.
The Demons came out strong in the first game as they put three points on the board with their first rotation and never looked back on their way to a 15-8 win.
Although Saturday's match puts both the Demons and Sailors at 9-2, the Demons will have the league's top seed heading into next weekend's district tournament, Hall said.