Hayden volleyball downs Meeker

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Vail Christian defeated Soroco on Tuesday night in Oak Creek in four games, 25-20, 24-26, 25-8, 25-8. Soroco finishes district play this week, facing Grand Valley at 6 p.m. Friday at home and Rangely at 3 p.m. Saturday.

— Hayden volleyball coach Stephanie Davis is confident her team can play with anyone in the district but says sometimes it just has "trouble finishing" the close ones.

On Friday night at Grand Valley, Hayden (4-3 in district) suffered a tough District 5 loss in five close games and needed to get a leg up in the district standings with its Tuesday night match, entering the game tied for fifth place with Meeker (7-7).

This game was just as tight, lasting another five close games and spanning another 2 1/2 hours. But this time, Hayden proved it could finish, pulling out a key district win (24-26, 25-15, 25-23, 21-25, 15-10).

"We just played well and didn't give up on the ball," said Hayden middle blocker Rachael Koehler, who had eight kills and eight blocks. "We were overconfident (at Grand Valley), and this game we learned our lesson. Our team works a lot better now, and we're really supportive of one another."

It took the Tigers a little while to come together. In Game 1, every time Hayden got within striking distance, Meeker slammed it right back with Janae Kindall and Clare Balloga combining for nine kills. Finally, a block from Koehler and a series of strong serves from Jade Stees put Hayden up, 18-17, and back-to-back kills from Holli Salazar and another from Kylee Sweetser brought the Tigers back to tie at 24. But errors spelled the Tigers' doom.

The rhythm of Meeker's sleek offense unraveled in Game 2, and Hayden turned on its offense. Salazar, who led all hitters with 17 kills, began laying them down to put Hayden up, 19-10. Blocks from Salazar (who finished with 8) and Koehler plus a pair of powerful kills from Sweetser helped seal a 25-15 Hayden win.

The offense was all but gone from Game 3. Hayden still hustled for some keys digs to keep rallies alive and hung in to capitalize on a string of Meeker unforced errors to go up, 24-21. Salazar then notched a pair of kills and won a crucial battle at the net with Kindall, blocking her shot to win, 25-23.

"You know, it's hard not to close out a match like that, but you have to credit Hayden. They just scrapped their way through that one," Meeker coach Christy Atwood said.

Meeker cleaned up its act in Game 4, jumping to a 14-6 lead. Koehler came alive at the net to bring the Tigers within three, and a trio of Hayden kills brought it within two, but the Meeker offense prevailed to force a tiebreaker.

Hayden regained the momentum in the tiebreaker and put together its most polished and dominant offense of the match, out-hitting Meeker, 8-4.

Davis credited Samantha DeLuca for stepping in for an injured Elaine Cromie, noted Sweetser's kill percentage (she finished with 12 kills) and said Salazar put together her best match of the season.

"We showed some real heart," Davis said.

Hayden closes out district play at 6 p.m. Friday at Rangely and 4 p.m. Saturday at Vail Mountain School.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253

or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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