Steamboat Springs With the Western Slope's lone undefeated record at stake, one team in Saturday afternoon's face-off between 5-0 Steamboat Springs and 6-0 Glenwood Springs had to go home with a loss.
Up 12-5 in the second game, the Demons' top-ranked hitter, Amber Sutherland, had the chance to overpower the Sailors' defense to push the match into a third game.
But the Sailors rallied with strong digs and crucial hitting to pull out a 16-14 win for a 2-0 match win that kept their undefeated streak alive.
"It would have been pretty easy to give up two points and let things go to a third game," Sailors coach Wendy Hall said about her team being down 13-7.
"I am so proud of their effort," Hall said. "To get back in position to win the game, that is the mental toughness I have been talking about for the last month, and I saw it out on the floor today."
At 14-14, the Demons slammed a long ball out of bounds on a Katie Liefer serve that put the Sailors up 15-14. The sophomore, who replaced the injured Bayli Stillwell, stepped up to the line again to serve a ball the Demons could not get off the floor.
Liefer's ace won the game for Steamboat, 16-14.
"I was really nervous," Liefer said. "I knew that I had to make the serve and I just tried to get it in there."
The Sailors started off the second game down 6-0 as they had trouble stopping Sutherland's offensive attack.
"We knew it was going to be a really tough match for us to try to defend Amber Sutherland," Hall said.
"She caused some problems for the defense; they couldn't slow her down. We haven't seen a player like that all year that powerful and quick."
Knowing about Glenwood's No. 1 offensive weapon Sutherland Steamboat worked on securing its defense.
"We made sure we always had three blockers up in the middle and mentally we were ready to dig up hard hitting balls," outside hitter Allison Griffing said about the Demons' sophomore hitter.
Down 12-5, the Sailors began making their comeback when Abby Fritz put a long rally away with a hit.
Griffing got the sixth point by pounding the ball in the back right corner of the court.
Trailing 13-8, Fritz dug a Demons hit, keeping the ball in play for Lizzie Sack to make the kill for a point.
The play was repeated with another Fritz dig and Sack kill to bring the game to within three points.
Griffing repeated her deadly kills to the right corner to bring the game to 13-11 in favor of the Demons.
She then made another kill to pull the Sailors even at 13.
Griffing, who led the team with eight kills for the game, has been working after practice on hitting and is starting to gel with setter Rebecca Gray.
"She is starting to feel her rhythm," Hall said. "Her and Becca are starting to work well together."
Fritz kept the defense alive with strong digs, which countered Sutherland's offensive attack.
"Definitely, on defense we weren't used to getting such hard hits," Fritz said.
The Sailors came into the second game with a 15-11 win over the Demons.
Saturday's 2-0 victory puts the (6-0, 12-0) Sailors in first place in the Western Slope as they enter their second round of league competition.
The Demons (6-1, 11-2) dropped to second in the league.