Sailors volleyball ends well

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The Steamboat Springs freshman and junior varsity volleyball teams went a combined 33-5 in match play this fall, providing a glimpse into the promising future of the program.

The Sailors junior varsity team, composed of 12 players of all ages, went 15-4 overall, but three of those losses came early in September.

"Probably the highlight for me was beating Glenwood Springs the second time we played them," JV coach Susie Ritter said. "We really wanted that match. They beat us in three at their home. Beating Battle Mountain the second time was also a highlight. It was great to see those kids pull those wins out against teams that beat them earlier."

In recent years, Steamboat's younger players have had little trouble defeating league opponents because the Western Slope League hasn't been strong. This year was the deepest and toughest the league has been in more than a decade. The talent at the varsity level carried over into JV and freshman teams, as well.

"Across the board, the teams have gotten better," Ritter said. "We were really young at the beginning, but the kids matured and learned so much throughout the season. It showed at the end when we dominated some teams."

Ritter said the biggest difference between freshman and JV volleyball is the pace of the game. The girls begin to learn more about blocking and adapting to what opponents are doing instead of worrying solely about their team.

"It's more the mental side than the physical and reacting to things quicker," Ritter said.

Steamboat's freshman team went 18-1 this season, as coach Amanda Anzalone worked to find playing time for 16 girls, the largest team she's had in Steamboat. She said what impressed her most about the freshmen was their fight.

"The girls always found a way to come back no matter how far we were down," Anzalone said. "It was very important to this group of girls to play as a team. Everyone was included whether it was practices or games. It made this group fun to work with."

Anzalone said she, like Ritter and varsity coach Wendy Hall, emphasizes defensive play. Freshmen don't always come to high school understanding the concept of team defense and who has what responsibility on the floor. Anzalone worked to teach that this season.

"I don't think girls realize until they get to high school how important defense is," she said. "Blocks and digs are a new thrill for them. We get their footwork down, and it starts to come together. That's why I enjoy coaching the freshmen so much. I teach them all these new things, and they get so excited when it comes together."

-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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