Searching for answers

Steamboat volleyball dips below .500

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— The tears showed coach Wendy Hall that several of her Steamboat Springs volleyball players are at least upset about the team's funk.

But it remains to be seen whether they will do anything about it.

On Saturday, for the first time in Hall's 20 years of coaching, Steamboat lost to Delta.

And the Sailors didn't lose in a close match. After winning the first game, 25-23, the Sailors were dominated in the final three, as the Panthers pulled off a 23-25, 25-14, 25-22, 25-17 upset.

"This is a big, big one," Delta coach Gregg Hawkins. "Our goal is to get better every time on the floor. We've been doing that."

The Sailors, on the other hand, have not. After dropping a five-game match at Glenwood Springs on Oct. 6 and whipping Rifle at home on Oct. 8, Hall thought the team --hich undeniably has talent -- was poised for the late-season surge.

Instead, during homecoming week, Steamboat (7-8 overall, 5-6 in the league) dropped three matches in three days. At least two of the three were matches the Sailors could have won in three games, including Saturday's match.

But Saturday, before the deciding fourth game, Delta's players huddled and chanted, "Finish it." Then, much to Hawkins' delight, the Panthers did.

"Delta is as good as they've ever been," Hall said.

The Sailors contributed to the Panthers' win by missing 11 serves and making nearly two-dozen errors at the net and on the floor. No player was immune.

"We are having trouble finding the floor right now," Hall said.

Steamboat's inability to sideout -- score points -- in the three recent matches has played a significant role in its losses. The Sailors' opponents are doing a better job digging, blocking and passing, so they are able to set up points and finish them better.

When Steamboat passes well, it is a dangerous team, able to run a variety of offensive sets. When it doesn't -- and it didn't Saturday -- the Sailors become predictable and error prone.

Delta had 57 digs in Saturday's match and played well enough to win behind the 23 combined kills from Bria Lovato and Jaci Fender. Brooke Hawkins had six aces, as well.

Senior Hestia Chase led Steamboat with 10 kills, and sophomore Katy Gary, who is playing through an illness, had nine kills. Senior Tara King, the starting setter, had eight kills and a team-high three blocks.

"No. 9 (King) is phenomenal," Hawkins said. "She's everywhere."

Steamboat has little time to dwell on the weekend. It faces rival Moffat County at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in Craig. Moffat County beat Delta in three games Friday night, though Hawkins said it was a match the Panthers could have won.

"We were ahead in every game," he said. "We just didn't finish."

It's a guarantee the Bulldogs -- a team the Sailors have beaten once this season -- are going to see the Steamboat and Delta score from Saturday and be ready to pounce.

It will be up to Steamboat to respond.

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