It's been nearly one year since the Steamboat Springs volleyball team won a "big match," coach Wendy Hall said, and she is searching for the right thing to say to a Sailors team that she thinks is talented enough to play with anyone.
Middle Park, a perennial powerhouse in Class 3A, defeated Steamboat, 25-20, 20-25, 17-25, 25-14, 15-13, on Tuesday in Granby. Last year, the Sailors beat the Panthers in what Hall said was their best match of the season.
Since then, Steamboat has had little trouble defeating teams it should, but it has struggled against talented opponents in key moments.
Steamboat (3-2, 2-1 in league) dropped a four-game match to Glenwood Springs on Saturday.
"Middle Park is good, but it's a team we can beat, just like Glenwood," Hall said. "I just feel like we have to close the deal in big matches, and we haven't done that yet. We are making errors at crucial times."
In Tuesday's match against Middle Park, senior Kristyn Bradbury had 13 kills for the Sailors. Sophomore Katie Mills chipped in with 12. Junior setter Tara King had five kills and 33 assists. Senior Tina Roberts, junior Hestia Chase and sophomore Erin Gleason each had three kills for Steamboat.
Although the Sailors had 40 kills, they made 38 hitting errors. They also had several breakdowns on serve receive and in the service game.
Steamboat is still in the early stages of the season with a relatively young team, but Hall is done making excuses, particularly after watching Steamboat self-destruct in Granby.
"I'm going to stop using the words 'inexperienced' and 'young' because they can be good right now, and they need to be," Hall said.
Hall is a firm believer in developing a team's mental toughness. At the beginning of the season, she said mental toughness would be a strength this season even if experience was not.
Although the Sailors have struggled in the past two matches, Hall won't give up and knows the players won't. She would, however, like to see Steamboat compete and fight for points and play to win in big games instead of worrying about making mistakes.
The Sailors will have a chance to rebound on the road with an important league match tonight against Battle Mountain (4-3, 2-1). The Huskies are one of the most improved teams in the Western Slope League this season.
"It's been a really long time since Battle Mountain has been good," Hall said. "They've had a coach coaching them year round for two years now. They've gotten better."
Steamboat turns around and hosts league newcomer Eagle Valley at 1 p.m. Saturday at Steamboat Springs High School.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org