Steamboat Springs Practice might look perfect, but Steamboat Springs volleyball coach Wendy Hall understands that the most accurate method to measure the Sailors' progress comes tonight when they open the season against Middle Park.
The Class 4A Sailors and Class 3A Panthers are coming off impressive seasons that ended in trips to the 2002 state tournament. Last fall, Middle Park handed Steamboat its only loss of the regular season.
Hall said this year's team is talented and competitive, and if Steamboat has one advantage, it is the return to the role of underdog.
Only a couple of players on this year's roster have any varsity experience, but the Sailors worked long and hard in the offseason to ensure 2003 will be year to remember. Hall said this season's varsity squad has made marked improvements since its undefeated JV season a year ago.
"I have tried to send them the message that I don't really mind not having any respect right now," Hall said. "They need to go out and earn their own reputation. They need to know how good they are, and that's how we approach this game."
Tonight's match will be a best three-of-five games, with the fifth game, should there be one, to 15 points. This season, all scoring is rally scoring to 25 in the first four games. In rally scoring, one team scores on each dead ball, regardless of which team served.
The freshmen game between Steamboat and Middle Park is at 4:30 p.m. with the JV game afterward at 5:30 p.m.
In addition to playing a similar style of volleyball, the Sailors and Panthers have strong feeder programs and respected coaches at each level, Hall said.
"It's a match I want to have on my schedule as long as I'm coaching here," Hall said. "I know Middle Park is always competitive, and they are a classy program. It's not a make-or-break match because it's nonleague, but it's always really good experience to draw from. We are definitely due for a match. There's only so much you can learn by playing yourself."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org