Craig Four teams showed up for the Moffat County versus Steamboat Springs volleyball match Tuesday night, the teams' coaches said.
First was the confident, aggressive Sailors playing the non-communicative, tense Bulldogs. Then it was the disoriented Sailors who had a hard time getting out of a mental funk versus the smiling, anticipating Bulldogs.
In the end the Sailors prevailed by having their better team on the court longer in a 25-13, 25-5, 28-26 win.
"The team that showed up against Palisade (a 1-3 loss for Moffat) was the team that started for us tonight," Moffat County coach Becky Howlett said. "I don't know how that team keeps coming back but we have to get rid of it."
On the other sideline Steamboat coach Wendy Hall liked what she saw early.
"We knew the crowd was going to be loud here so I told the girls the best way to keep them quiet was to play well right away," she said. "We came out well from the get go."
The Bulldogs never had the lead in either of the first two games and what was once an electric crowd on hand for the Bulldogs' homecoming week was hushed.
Down two-games-to-none, the Bulldogs rallied each other in the huddle before the third game.
"We said that we had nothing to lose so to go out there and give it our all," said Bulldog senior Stephanie Kloos. "I think we loosened up in the third game and it helped us play better."
Moffat County took its first lead of the match by jumping ahead 4-1. After a Sailor timeout the visitors brought it back to 7-7.
"We've had a hard time this year with our mental game," Hall said. "We let them back in it and got down mentally."
The lead changed six times after the score was tied at seven and the Sailors looked as if they had the game with a lead of 24-20. Behind a reawakened crowd, the Bulldogs came back to tie it a 24 apiece and took the lead at 26-25. Steamboat rallied back to score three unanswered and took the second meeting between the teams in the games.
"We gave them some light and they played better," Hall said about the third game. "We brought it on ourselves by stringing together errors but recovered."
Howlett was pleased with her team's play for most of the third game until the end when she said they started letting balls drop. Both losses to the Sailors were frustrating for the Bulldog coach as her team took three of the six games to the two-point limit but were unable to get a win.
"I don't know what it is but they don't anticipate well against Steamboat," she said. "It's not like Steamboat's doing anything different, we just don't guess well."
The win improves the Sailors to 6-1 in the Western Slope Conference and the Bulldogs to 3-4.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org