Wednesday, November 3, 2004
After this weekend's regional tournament, eight volleyball teams will be left in Class 4A.
Steamboat Springs, seeded 10th out of 16 teams statewide, isn't expected to be one of them, but if the Sailors hope to realize a preseason goal of making the state tournament, they will have to be among the final eight.
To finish among the top eight, Steamboat (16-6 overall) has to place in the top two at the Region B tournament Saturday at Windsor High School. Host Windsor (21-2), Sterling (19-4) and Greeley Central (10-13) also are in the region.
"I don't see another region that is less of a challenge," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. "I'm perfectly content with where we are seeded and headed. You have to knock off one of the top eight to be in the top eight."
Saturday's tournament pits Steamboat versus the Northern League. Windsor, Sterling and Greeley Central are league members. Seven teams from the dominant Northern League advanced to the regional tournament. The Western Slope League was second with three teams -- Steamboat, Palisade and Glenwood Springs.
"I think we are playing well," Hall said. "I feel really good about everyone's optimism and their goals and wanting to get to the next level."
Steamboat opens against Sterling at 9 a.m. Saturday. That match ultimately may determine the second regional qualifier, assuming Windsor wins the region. It is the first match of the day. Steamboat will face Windsor at 1:30 p.m. and Greeley Central, which Steamboat defeated earlier this season, immediately after the Windsor match.
"The first match is critical," Hall said. "After facing (top-ranked) Cheyenne Mountain last week, I'm hoping that we proved something to ourselves about the ability to match up against good teams."
Steamboat advanced to Saturday's regional tournament after placing second in the District 5 tournament last weekend in Colorado Springs. Although the Western Slope League provided the Sailors with quality competition during the regular season, the district tournament was a step up for Steamboat.
The Sailors responded by playing their best match of the season against Pueblo South in the district semifinals to guarantee a spot in regionals. Had Steamboat lost, the season would have been over.
Instead, Steamboat finds itself one day of volleyball away from the state tournament. If the Sailors play like they did against Pueblo South and during stretches against Palisade and Mullen, they will be difficult to beat and will provide a challenge for Windsor.
After an early season-ending injury to senior middle blocker Stacy Cavanagh, coupled with an inconsistent start, Steamboat has come together to make regionals. The team has proven to be capable of handling pressure. The Sailors just need to respond for one more week.
"I knew it would be a really rough road, but we never gave up on them," Hall said. "We had some run-ins and some disagreements and some kids that were frustrated with how much pressure we were putting on them. They have gotten over the hump. I knew we had the talent, but I didn't know if we had the experience. ... Our season was riding on that Pueblo South outcome. If that doesn't give you a taste of pressure I don't know what does."
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org