Sailors win two, advance to semifinals

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The Steamboat Springs volleyball team advanced to the championship round of the District 5 tournament with wins against Woodland Park and Mullen on Friday.

Steamboat, the No. 2 seed, defeated Woodland Park, the No. 5 seed, 25-21, 25-21, 25-23, to open pool play. Steamboat followed up that win with a 25-12, 25-19, 25-19 win against No. 3 seed Mullen. The wins gave the Sailors a top finish in Pool B, so they advance to the semifinals at noon today against Pueblo South, the runner-up finisher in Pool A.

Top-ranked and top-seeded Cheyenne Mountain faces Mullen in the other semifinal at 10:30 a.m. Both matches are at Cheyenne Mountain High School. The winners of each semifinal will play for a district title, but both will advance to next weekend's regional tournament at sites yet to be determined. Regionals is the final stop before the state tournament.

Woodland Park and Moffat County were eliminated Friday. If Steamboat plays anything like it did in the opening game against Mullen, an easy 25-12 win, the Sailors will earn a spot in the regional tournament. "We were solid in every category," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. "When we play like that, we can dominate everybody. ... If you can start a match like that, you have a huge mental advantage."

The next two games against Mullen weren't as easy, but the Sailors found ways to overcome deficits and mistakes to win in straight sets, which says something considering Mullen played a 5A schedule and entered as the third seed.

Senior Kristyn Bradbury, who combined for 26 kills in the two matches, said Steamboat is playing with confidence.

"It's now or never," she said. "We are all on the same page. If we don't come together, it's over. We seniors aren't going down like last year." Last year, the Sailors were eliminated in the district tournament.

Bradbury wasn't the only Steamboat player swinging hard Friday. Sophomore Katie Mills had a combined 34 kills to lead the Sailors. She continues to improve and mature on the court in her first season of varsity volleyball. Woodland Park and Mullen put up blocks on Bradbury and Mills with minimal success. The back row players for each team had even less luck trying to dig the attacks from Mills and Bradbury.

Woodland Park had equal difficulty with junior Missy Chotvacs. She had five kills and played stellar defense, which helped Steamboat stay ahead in a match in which it didn't play its best volleyball. All three games against Woodland Park were close, but the Sailors found ways to get just enough stops to win in three. The early win set a tone for the day, and Steamboat responded against Mullen, in a game the Sailors wanted to win to avoid facing Cheyenne Mountain in a semifinal match. Junior setter Tara King finished the day with 71 assists and five kills. Junior Hestia Chase had three kills, and sophomore Erin Gleason finished with two kills.

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

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