After more than a week away from competition, the Steamboat Springs volleyball team returns to the court this weekend for three matches in three different towns in less than 24 hours.
Steamboat (6-2) takes on Delta at 6:30 p.m. Friday before traveling to Fruita for a noon match Saturday. Steamboat wraps up its tour of Western Colorado at 6 p.m. Saturday in Palisade.
The matches against Delta and Palisade are league matches for Steamboat, 2-0 in Western Slope play.
If the short turnover between matches wasn't tough enough, the caliber of the opponents, particularly Fruita and Palisade, makes the three-match schedule that much tougher.
That's how Steamboat coach Wendy Hall wanted it.
"I actually scheduled it that way on purpose because we need to practice playing two matches on the same day and playing full three-out-of-five (game) matches in one day."
The rally scoring rules are new this season, and Steamboat's varsity team is still learning how to prepare for and play in a match where the winning team must win three games instead of two and score 25 points instead of 15.
The fifth game, should there be one, is to 15 in rally scoring.
In districts and regionals later this season, the Sailors will have to play top-level volleyball for at least three matches a day to advance. Hall said September is a good time to get a feel for where the team will need to be in October and November.
The week off has been helpful for a team that has been bitten by a cold bug and helpful for starting middle blocker Stacy Cavanagh and her badly bruised knee, Hall said.
The team is eager to resume playing, however, and Hall is interested to see how the Sailors continue to progress.
"I knew they were good physically and talent-wise," Hall said. "The mental game is the unknown, and we're working on it. They need to be more confident in and smarter with their game, and we're hoping we improve each week. They have so much energy at the start of the match, and I'm trying to teach them to bottle that energy."
The Sailors are learning to set up points in rally scoring. Under the previous rules, if a team made a mistake while serving it didn't cost a point. Under new rules, every mistake costs a point. In rally scoring, the Sailors have to learn when to swing away looking for a quick kill and when to go for safer shots that keep the ball in play.
"That's a fine line sometimes," Hall said. "The better we get at that, the more successful we'll be."
Hall expects Palisade to be near the top of the league this year because the Bulldogs traditionally have good ball control and limit their mistakes.
Fruita is improving with the arrival of a new coach, Hall said, and Delta always fields tall teams with strong blocking.
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