Tigers down rival Rams

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— Keep it simple. That's what Hayden volleyball coach Becky Burdick instructed her players to do Tuesday night.

"I told them think smart," Burdick said.

Up against rival Soroco, a team the Tigers already had defeated once this season, Hayden pulled out a 24-26, 25-23, 26-24, 27-25 victory behind solid serving and passing.

The Tigers made 66 errors -- at the net or on the floor -- and the Rams made 45 miscues, but Hayden had 38 kills to Soroco's 19 to make up for the difference Tuesday night.

"We weren't being aggressive," Rams coach Betsy Photos said.

The Tigers, on the other hand, were aggressive, particularly from the service line, where they had 16 aces in the match. Senior Sara Sumerlin, who recently started jump serving in matches, had seven of those easy points.

"This was our last home game," Sumerlin said. "As seniors, we wanted it so bad. We needed to win. They are usually our biggest rival."

For stretches of all four games, Hayden (7-11 overall, 3-5 in league play) didn't look like a team with just three league wins this season. When the Tigers pass well, Mariah Doolin and Jess Martin can mix up their sets, making their offense difficult to stop.

Soroco had a tough time putting a block up all night. The Rams (3-13, 1-6) used more than a dozen players Tuesday.

"We're trying to find the combination and chemistry that works the best," Photos said.

But Hayden also altered things, using players such as senior Justine Bedell in serving situations and freshman Holli Salazar at the net late in the match.

"Certain girls play great next to each other," Burdick said.

After dropping the first game, Hayden responded in front of the home crowd in the final three. The Tigers pulled ahead, 18-13, in the second game on a Sumerlin kill, but Soroco seniors Kyla Schmidt, who finished with eight kills, and Vanessa Eaton helped bring the Rams back to within 21-19.

"Kyla came out swinging (Tuesday night)," Photos said.

But three kills -- one from Katy Koehler, Doolin and Kylee Sweetser -- and a block from Doolin and Emily Whiteman pushed Hayden to the 25-23 win.

The third game also was close. Hayden trailed 20-19 before outscoring Soroco 6-4 to win the game, setting up the decisive Game 4.

The Tigers' best volleyball of the match came in the middle of the final game when they went on a 10-5 run behind two kills from Doolin and kills from Martin, Whiteman and Sweetser, who finished with a game-high nine kills.

The Rams fought all the way back to tie things up at 23, despite trailing by five late in the match.

Hayden held on for the win behind two smart plays from Whiteman, who controlled the net and finished with six kills. Doolin added eight kills.

Up next for Hayden is a 6 p.m. match Friday against West Grand in Kremmling. Soroco hosts Rangely at 6 p.m. Friday and Coal Ridge at 3 p.m. Saturday.

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

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