Friday night's volleyball match against Palisade could have gone either way.
Unfortunately, after five games, it didn't end up going Steamboat's way.
"I'm upset we lost this match, and I hope my players are upset, too," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said after falling to league-leading Palisade three games to two. "I'm not upset with the way my players played, but I'm upset because we had a good opportunity to win this match and we let it slip away."
Steamboat set the pace in the first game of the match, downing Palisade in stunning fashion, 25-22.
"I didn't know what to expect coming into this match," Hall said. "But after we won that first game I was thinking to myself, 'We can beat this team.'"
But what began as an upset quickly turned into a dogfight.
Palisade (6-0 in league matches) answered quickly by jumping out to a 9-3 lead in the second game. The Bulldogs then rolled to a 25-19 win behind solid hitting from senior Kaela Hellmann and junior Kaity Edmiston. Palisade took the upper hand in the third game with a 25-22 victory. But Steamboat didn't fade away and recovered with a 25-20 win in Game 4.
Steamboat looked to have the Bulldogs on the ropes in Game 5 after jumping out to a 4-2 lead. But Palisade took advantage of a few key errors by the Sailors and rallied to win the final game, 15-12.
Hellmann finished the night with 17 kills, and Edmiston finished with 16.
But more important, the two Palisade players dominated the net, blocking several key shots and forcing Steamboat to rely on 6-foot-3 outside hitter Katie Mills for most of the offense.
Edmiston had six blocks in the match, and Hellmann knocked down four more Sailor shots.
"I thought Palisade's block was very effective tonight," Hall said. "It helped them save some points and really threw our hitters out of rhythm at times."
The block may have slowed Steamboat sophomore Mills, but it was far from stopping her.
She fueled Steamboat's offense attack with 28 kills and just 12 hitting errors in the match. She got help from Kristyn Bradbury with 13 kills, Tara King and Hestia Chase with four kills each.
But that wasn't enough offense for the Sailors to upset the league's top team.
"This was a big game for us," Chase said after the match. "It's so frustrating because we are almost there."
The match was the biggest of three matches; the Sailors will play at home this weekend.
Steamboat will have to shake off the loss and concentrate on matches against Delta at 1 p.m. and Fruita at 6 p.m. today at the high school gym.
The Sailors (4-4 overall, 3-3 in league) will start the second round of league play next Tuesday in Moffat County.
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