Steamboat Springs When it came to beating the Sailors at last week's Fort Morgan Tournament most of the opposing teams decided to focus on trying to stop Steamboat's biggest hitter, Katie Carter.
"It's one of our secrete weapons," Sailor Bayli Stillwell said. "Abby and me, we are kind of quiet about our playing. That way other teams focus on Katie and it gives us a chance to make some big plays."
Both Fritz and Bayli Stilwell made big plays last weekend, piling up a combined 51 kills, as Steamboat made its way through the brackets without a loss and earned the first tournament title of the season.
"No I'm not surprised," Sailors coach Wendy Hall said of her team's performance. "But I just didn't know how we would respond to not having Allison Griffing (who was out with an illness) in the lineup."
Hall said the Sailors missing outside hitter is currently listed as day-to-day, but is expected to return to practices this week.
But in the tournament, Steamboat showed that this year's edition would be hard to stop even without one of its top starters.
The Sailor players also proved that to beat this team the opposition would need to focus on more than just one player in a star-studded lineup.
"Juniors Hannah Gary and Katie Liefer stepped in and did a real nice job for us," Hall said of last week's additions to the rotation.
Steamboat opened the tournament by winning the first of three-rounds of pool play Friday. The Sailors knocked off 2A Merino in the tournament opener 15-6 and 15-6. Merino was ranked sixth in the state prior to the tournament.
"It was a tougher match than the scores reflected," Stillwell said. "There were some awesome teams down there, we just didn't let them get on a roll."
While opposing teams attempted to stop Carter, none of the teams Steamboat faced in last week's tournament had much success in that area. She finished with 57 kills in five matches, but Hall credited the play of both Fritz and Stillwell for making that possible.
"I think trying to focus on stopping one player in this lineup is crazy," Hall said. "We have too many other players who can step it up at any time."
Carter tallied 10 kills against Merino. Fritz added seven and Stillwell finished with three. Lizzy Sack also had three blocks and Rebecca Gray finished with 24 assists.
Steamboat went head-to-head with Valley High School in the second match of the tournament, and finished with the same result.
The Sailors won the match in two games, 15-5 and 15-8.
Once again Carter led the charge with 11 kills. Fritz added 10 and Stillwell finished with four.
Sack had four blocks in the game.
Steamboat downed Wray in an anti-climatic contest to wrap up pool play on Saturday. Wray fell in straight games 15-0 and 15-4. It only took three Steamboat only used three players at the service line in the first game to secure the win.
Carter finished with 10 kills, Stillwell had four and Fritz collected two.
The three-game sweep sent he Sailors into the semifinal round where they faced and defeated the girls from Sterling in a 15-12, 15-7 contest.
Carter had 13 kills, Stillwell had four and Sack finished with four.
Steamboat got a big boost from Valerie Finch, who was a perfect 15-for-15 serving with three aces.
She was also 10-for-10 in passing serves.
In the other semifinal game, Platte Valley High School beat tournament host Fort Morgan to set up a showdown with the Sailors.
Steamboat, however, rolled past Platte Valley by the score of 15-10, 15-9.
Carter had 13 kills, Fritz collected 11 and Stillwell finished with six. Sack also had four kills in the match.
"We did a lot of swinging at the ball." Hall said. "We didn't block too many at the net, but we were able to dig a lot of balls out."
Finch was strong for the second match in a row. She finished 14-for-14 both in serves and passes receive.
Fritz was 17-for-17 receiving serve, nine-for-nine serving and didn't make a hitting error in the match.
"We are just going to take it one match at a time," Stillwell said. "We want to play every match like it's our last."