Sailors ready for challenge

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Since falling to Palisade on Oct. 1, the members of the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team have been on a mission.

The team is 4-0 in its past four matches and will try to keep that streak alive when it hosts Glenwood Springs at 6:30 p.m. today in what is shaping up to be one of the biggest matches of the season.

"I think this team is ready for a big challenge," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. 'This is the type of match we really need to win if we want to have a successful season."

The Sailors, 8-4 overall and 6-3 in conference, are hoping to move into a tie for second place in the league standings with a win over Glenwood. The Demons, 12-2 overall and 7-2 in conference, will be looking to fend off the charging Sailors in the match and stay close to league-leading Palisade.

Battle Mountain, a team Steamboat is scheduled to face later in the week, is also tied for third place at 9-5 overall and 6-3 in conference. No doubt the Huskies will be watching the results of the Steamboat-Glenwood match closely.

"For years, it seemed that we were playing Glenwood for the league title," Hall said. "Things are a little different for Steamboat this year, but this match is big for other reasons."

Palisade, who is perfect in the conference at 10-0 and nearly perfect overall at 14-1, looks to have the inside track to lock up the Western Slope title.

But Steamboat, Glenwood Springs and Battle Mountain are fighting for seeding position in the district tournament, which could be the key to advancing to the regional level.

The top six teams in the league will play at the district tournament; two of those teams will advance to the next level.

For Steamboat, today's match also will be about beating a quality opponent, something the Sailors have struggled to do in 2004.

"It's time for this team to stop talking and start walking the walk," Hall said.

She said that if Steamboat wants to win this match, the players will need to limit Glenwood's big middle blockers Leah Hinkey and Leanne Lawson.

The last time Steamboat faced Glenwood, the 5-foot-11 Hinkey recorded 25 kills. She has 165 kills for the season and 52 blocks. Lawson is equally as powerful. She's recorded 136 kills this season and 42 blocks.

"We are going to have to slow them down at the net," Hall said. "I don't think we can stop them, but we will need to get some hands on the ball in order to slow things down a bit."

Despite the standings, Hall still feels that Glenwood is the top team in the league this season. She said the team has many weapons and she expects them to continue to be strong down the stretch.

"We are going to have to make them scramble for some balls," Hall said. "We can't afford to give them too many free passes."

-- To reach John F. Russell call 871-4209

or e-mail jrussell@steamboatpilot.com

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