Steamboat Springs In its own rendition of the hour of power, the Steamboat Springs volleyball team defeated Rifle in three games, playing a brand of volleyball that left quite an impression on senior captain Kristyn Bradbury.
"I thought we'd be good, but we're better than we thought we'd be by this time," Bradbury said.
Thanks in part to the return of Bradbury, the emergence of middle blockers Hestia Chase and Erin Gleason, the right arm of Katie Mills and Tara King's ability to put up a perfect set from anywhere on the floor, the Sailors (3-0 overall, 2-0 in the Western Slope League) needed less than 60 minutes to defeat the Bears, 25-13, 25-6, 25-18, on Thursday night.
Mills had 18 kills. Bradbury had 10 kills with no hitting errors in her first game back in the lineup full time after breaking her foot this summer. She played back row last week against Moffat County, but Bradbury, who turned 18 on Thursday night, was eyeing the Rifle match as her target date to return.
"Her mental toughness and confidence makes everyone better," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said.
Last week against Moffat County, the Sailors made 17 hitting and eight receiving errors. On Thursday, they trimmed those numbers by more than half, as they eye one of two highly anticipated matchups against defending league champion Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
"It was really important for us to play well (Thursday) going into Glenwood," Hall said.
Steamboat defeated Rifle easily in the first two games, but the Bears looked like a different team in the third, going point for point with the Sailors until the home team pulled away with the score tied at 12-12.
First-year coach Geneva Farr said she was pleased with the way the Bears played in the final game even though they came up short. She was especially pleased with the improved play defensively.
"In the first game, we said, 'We aren't ready to play.' In the second game, we said, 'Here, it's yours,'" Farr said. "In the third, I let them play. ... They are starting to get it. Once they get that confidence, they are clicking."
The Bears, like many teams in the Western Slope this year, are relatively inexperienced. Rifle only has one returning varsity player on the roster, senior Montanah Matthies. Thursday, she and junior Kendra Mugford led Rifle with four kills each.
Junior Kendra Turza chipped in with two kills.
Hall remembers when Steamboat and Rifle used to play for league championships. Farr is trying to return that level of confidence and ability to the Bears' program.
"I told (the team) I wasn't expecting to win," Farr said. "I'm expecting to improve. The next time we see these teams I expect victories."
Steamboat, however, doesn't appear interested in losing matches any time in the near future. Thursday's match was the first for the Sailors in more than a week, and Hall used her time away from competition.
"We got back to basics," she said. "It was drills and reps."
Chase, a junior, said it was conditioning, and it doesn't sound like fun, but it wasn't bad.
"It was fun to see the improvement," she said. "Personally, I saw some improvement. Even if it's conditioning, we're out on the court."
Chase had four kills on Thursday. King had 30 assists. The only unfortunate sight for Steamboat all night was watching Stacy Cavanagh enter the gym on crutches. The senior middle blocker had season-ending knee surgery earlier this week, but she will remain a part of the team this season. Steamboat's next match is a 1 p.m. contest against Glenwood Springs in Glenwood on Saturday.
Steamboat's junior varsity defeated Rifle, 25-17, 25-16. Steamboat's freshmen won 25-13, 25-16, on Thursday.
-To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208
or e-mail email@example.com