In their first club volleyball season, 14 Steamboat Springs girls are enjoying more success than anyone expected.
Coach Marilou Jones, who previously coached volleyball in Parker and played in Southern California, helped put together two teams of seventh- and eighth-graders interested in taking their play to the next level.
The club season for Steamboat Volleyball, operated out of Christian Heritage School, began two weeks after the completion of the middle school season. The two teams -- the eighth-graders compete in the 15-year-old division while the seventh-graders compete in the 13-year-old division --have played in several tournaments in Colorado, beating teams with older, more experienced girls.
"We're constantly striving to do better," Natalie Nichols, 14, said.
The Steamboat Flames, the team name for both squads, compete in the Rocky Mountain Region, and the eighth-grade team placed fourth out of 10 teams at a recent tournament. The other nine teams were freshman squads.
The seventh-grade team won its division at a tournament two weeks ago.
Many of the girls on both squads were struggling with an overhand serve before the club season started, Jones said. Now, all 14 have consistent serves and their play is more fundamentally sound.
Katy Gary, 13, said teams from Rangely, Meeker and Craig beat the Steamboat Springs Middle School teams during the fall season. She is pretty sure that wouldn't happen if they met any of those teams again.
"We're a different team now," she said.
Volleyball is a popular sport in Steamboat for people of all ages, particularly young girls. It isn't uncommon for more than 40 seventh- and eighth-graders to take part in the sport, making it extremely difficult for coaches to provide extensive one-on-one instruction.
Jones is interested in helping the limited number of girls in club volleyball take the next step.
Jones, whose daughters Marci and Natalie play on the seventh-grade team, envisions volleyball's popularity growing in Steamboat.
The Yampa Valley Community Foundation awarded Steamboat Volleyball a grant through the Christian Heritage School. That grant, along with the help of an anonymous donor, helped the club purchase equipment for two regulation volleyball courts.
Members of the Steamboat Flames are: Gary, Nichols, Lauren Marias, Molly Weiss, Lisa Floyd, Heidi Lord, Nicole Rende, Lizzie Stoll, Janna Anderson, Kacey Bull, Maggie Faulkner, Marci Jones, Natalie Jones and Sara Williams
In addition to middle school club volleyball, Steamboat Volleyball is running a competitive adult league that includes college players looking to play with people of comparable ability.
Games for adults begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at Christian Heritage.
Jones also is running an open gym for all middle school girls from 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays at Christian Heritage.
Because girls younger than seventh grade have limited -- if any -- exposure to volleyball before middle school, Jones is offering a clinic in April for fifth- and sixth-grade girls interested in volleyball.
For more information, call Jones at 879-2066.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
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