Steamboat Springs Although it might not be coming at the best time, Sailors coach Bruce Alston said he and his team are looking forward to the challenge of facing the top-ranked team in the league.
In their first game back from the winter break and without their top scorer, the Sailors will be taking on the Moffat County Bulldogs at home Friday night.
"You learn a lot more by being challenged and playing up and really being pushed," Alston said. "The girls are up to the challenge."
Their lone returning starter, senior guard Emily Hines, will be absent from the lineup when the 2-5 Sailors play the 4-1 Bulldogs.
In their league opener, the Sailors will face last year's league champions, a team that is returning five of last year's starters.
While the Bulldogs' Laurel Mortensen and Amber Sanchez led the team in scoring, Alston said the entire team is strong.
"They play cohesively as a team. There's a lot of team speed. There's no overall individual performer. They contribute well off the bench. It's strong team play," he said.
Bulldogs coach Craig Mortensen said Jessica Norman, Katie Telfer, Ashleigh Gregg, Katie Schafer and Charlotte Steele have all made major contributions to the team.
Mortensen is looking at a Sailors team he said is tall and well-balanced and has fared well as a JV team, but he also sees a strong team in his players.
"We have pretty good quickness and speed, just good balance. Three girls are over the double figures (in scoring per game). If one girl is off one night, the other girl picks up and makes up the slack," Mortensen said.
Moffat County's lone season defeat came at the start of its season with a 57-52 loss to Logan, a team from New Mexico. Since then, the Bulldogs won four straight games, including an 81-38 win over the Roaring Fork Rams, a team the Sailors lost to before the break.
"I feel like we played some pretty good ball over the last couple of games to pretty good teams," Mortensen said.
With almost a month without games, Steamboat scrimmaged Summit County Monday in hopes of getting back into the swing of competition. Although Alston said the teams could not keep score, he was confident the Sailors came out on top offensively.
Hines, who has led the Sailors in scoring, and Jessica Flores, a senior who comes off the bench as a point guard, will not be playing Friday night.
"That is going to affect us, but other girls will have the opportunity to step up. I'm really confident that they're going to be able to," Alston said.
The girls varsity game begins at 6 p.m. with the boys game following at 7:30 p.m.