The birthday flowers Steamboat Springs volleyball coach Wendy Hall received before Saturday's match against Eagle Valley were nice, but the win was better. The Sailors knocked off the Devils to end a three-match skid.
Steamboat defeated Eagle Valley, 25-20, 25-18, 25-22, notching its first win since beating Rifle on Sept. 16.
"We did not have a let down," Hall said. "We closed the deal when we had to, and we came out ready to play in each match."
In the previous three matches, all losses, Steamboat had played stretches of inconsistent volleyball, but in Saturday's win, though the Sailors weren't perfect, they didn't have mental breakdowns that cost them five or six points.
"We've had good fight," senior Tina Roberts said. "What was killing us was every error we made, we would let it get to us."
Saturday, Steamboat followed mistakes with corrections and sideouts, which prevented Eagle Valley from establishing a lead of more than two points in the match.
The Devils and Sailors played even through most of Game 1 before Steamboat pulled ahead at 19-18. Two errors on Eagle Valley helped cushion Steamboat's lead and a double block from juniors Hestia Chase and Tara King and several Kristyn Bradbury kills pushed the Sailors to 25 and the win.
In the second game, the Sailors took control earlier, once again behind Bradbury. The Devils' Kenzie Shreeve helped keep Eagle Valley in the match from the back row and the net, but the combination of good Steamboat defense and several timely kills helped give the Sailors the 25-18 Game 2 win.
Eagle Valley responded in the third and took the lead from Steamboat, 7-6. The Sailors moved back ahead, 9-8, on an ace from senior Danielle Tredway. Steamboat held the lead, building as much as a five-point advantage before the Devils closed to within one at 20-19.
Steamboat turned to Bradbury whose kill prompted Eagle Valley coach Karl Talcott to call a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Chase came up with one of the biggest plays of the game when she blocked an attack attempt from Shreeve on the opposite side.
"Hestia read the back set and got over there," Hall sad. "That was a really good read."
The Sailors went on to win 25-22.
Shreeve led all hitters with 23 kills Saturday. Teammate Ashley Fahrenholtz had four kills. Donohue had 27 assists. Fahrenholtz, Shreeve and Kellee Hollis combined for 31 digs.
Sophomore Katie Mills led the Sailors with 10 kills. Bradbury added four kills, and Roberts had three. King had 22 assists to go with four blocks. Chase and sophomore Erin Gleason had three blocks each. Roberts and Bradbury each had two blocks.
Eagle Valley senior Mariah Scott went down early in Game 1 with an ankle injury, and Talcott said the loss of the starter was a factor in the team's performance.
"She's a big part of our ball handling and part of our team chemistry, " he said.
Steamboat will play its next several matches without Roberts, who is leaving for a 2 1/2-week trip to Austria. Roberts also is a competitive alpine ski racer.
In her place, junior Missy Chotvacs, who plays several rotations in the back row for Mills, will step in until Roberts' return.
After a series of upsets, the Western Slope League appears to be wide open. Hall said the league is the best she's seen it in 16 years of coaching.
Thursday, Palisade upended Glenwood Springs in five games to move atop the standings at 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the league. Saturday, Moffat County beat Battle Mountain in five games to drop the Huskies into a tie with the Sailors at 3-2 in league play.
Steamboat (4-3 overall) returns to action against Palisade at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Steamboat. Eagle Valley, which picked up an impressive win against Colorado Academy on Friday, hosts Rifle at 6 p.m. Thursday.
On Saturday, Steamboat's junior varsity team defeated Eagle Valley, 25-21, 25-20, and Steamboat's freshmen remained unbeaten with a 25-13, 25-10 win.