Steamboat Springs The Plateau Valley volleyball team stunned Class 2A District 5 just less than a year ago when it won the district tournament inside the Soroco High School gymnasium.
On Tuesday night, the Cowboys' season died with a whimper on the same court.
Soroco out-played a flat and mistake-prone Plateau Valley squad, crushing the Cowboys and their hopes for the postseason in three quick games (25-12, 25-7, 25-16).
The match was a "pigtail" tiebreaker between the district's No. 8 team, Soroco, and its No. 9 team, Plateau Valley, to determine which would advance to this year's eight-team district tournament starting Friday in Rangely.
"It's hard to say that the pigtail is the biggest game of your season, but it is," Soroco coach Kim Reeves said. "The main thing I was stressing was, do not give into the pressure you're in. I told them, 'You need to decide if you want your season to be over.'"
The Rams immediately proved they wanted a shot at the postseason in Game 1 as they jumped to a 16-8 lead. Soroco's pressure and consistent serving were factors from the outset, but it quickly became apparent to Plateau Valley fans that mistakes would doom their team.
Four consecutive unforced Plateau Valley errors on hard serves from Soroco's Sarajane Rossi led to an easy 25-12 win in the opening game.
Plateau Valley's Jami Smith looked to breathe some life into the Cowboys with two kills to start Game 2. But Soroco's offense was sparked by four game kills from Amanda Wilson and a 10-point serving streak from Mikal Achtner, while Plateau Valley unraveled with 18 errors in the game.
"It was ugly," Plateau Valley coach Toni Gunther said. "Too many mistakes - I guess we didn't even get off the bus."
Although Game 3 featured the match's closest play and longest rallies - Plateau Valley got as close as 19-14, Soroco produced its most offense of the match to send Plateau Valley on the 2 1/2-hour bus ride back to Collbran. Glenda Long had four kills, and Wilson and Rossi both chipped in two.
"We can definitely play with the top teams in the league," Long said about a Soroco team she said was better than its 1-7 district record. "We just started a whole new season now. : We really came together at the end of the season and are playing as a team."
Soroco enters districts as the No. 8 seed. It starts four-team, round-robin play with a 4 p.m. match Friday against No. 1-seeded Rangely. On Saturday, Soroco will face No. 4 Hayden at 8:30 a.m. and No. 5 Meeker at 11 a.m. The top two teams from that pool will face the top two teams from the other four-team pool (No. 2 West Grand, No. 3 Vail Mountain School, No. 6 Paonia and No. 7 Grand Valley). The top three overall teams, with Rangely already having clinched a berth, will advance to the regional tournament.
"We're going into districts at our peak," Reeves said. "I'm sure there's some teams that are worried about us - we've come such a long way."