Steamboat Springs Steamboat will face the old and the new this weekend as it continues league action against Rifle and Glenwood Springs.
After falling 53-50 to Glenwood at the start of the season, Steamboat will be looking for redemption when it travels to face the Demons Saturday.
But before the Sailors take on the Demons, they will first play the Bears at home at 7:30 p.m. Friday. After the graduation of eight players, the Bears filled the void of last year's team that went 16-7 with one freshman and two sophomores. Evened out by a senior and a junior, Rifle coach Rick Schmitz said that his team is balanced with no standout players.
"With any inexperience, it takes some time to gel and get to where we want to be," Schmitz said.
So far this season, junior Autumn Hedberg leads the team in scoring at 14 points per game, and Amber Gavito follows at 13.4 points per game.
Schmitz said his team strengths have been quickness and the ability to run the floor well. But with no one more than 6 feet tall on the Bears' side, Schmitz sees a strong Sailors inside game with 6-foot Bayli Stillwell and 6-foot-1 Tracy Lucas as major threats.
"I think they have got a strong inside game. They got a couple of 6-footers, a good 3-point shooter. We expected them to be a tough team. We played them last summer and they handled us pretty good," Schmitz said.
The Sailors will not have the depth they enjoyed in the preseason. One of the Sailors' leading scorers, Emily Hines, and rotating point guard Jessica Flores are sidelined until
Jan. 26. Junior Rebecca Gray left the team with a back injury. Those absences left the Sailors a little short-winded during their 53-33 loss to the Moffat County Bulldogs.
But the Sailors will be returning with Jennifer Weber, who finished the Bulldogs game with 17 points, and Stillwell, who topped the team with 11 rebounds. After a strong week of practice, Sailors coach Bruce Alston thinks his team will be ready for its second league matchup.
"(The Bears) have nice passing, they are really deliberate and well coached. They have really good pressure," Alston said.
Last weekend, the Bears ended a four-game losing streak after a 46-34 win against the Demons in their first league game. On Saturday, the Sailors will face the Demons for the second time this season and will be keying on Natalie Lancaster, who averages 8.6 points a game and leads the team in 3-point shooting.
In their second game of the season, the Sailors had trouble at the line, sinking shots and rebounding when they played Glenwood. But, six weeks later, Alston is hoping the Sailors' improvement will win the game.
"It may come down to which team has improved the most and I count on us," Alston said.
Last year, after falling in the preseason to the Demons, the Sailors went on to win both league games.