Rangely The Hayden volleyball team knew that heading into Friday and Saturday's Class 2A District 5 tournament would be no easy task, even having finished the regular season strong enough to earn a No. 4 seed in the eight-team tourney.
Unfortunately, the Tigers didn't have enough steam left in the engine for a final push.
Hayden went 0-3 in pool play, eliminated from the postseason on Saturday morning as No. 1 seed Rangely beat the Tigers in three games, 25-18, 25-11, 25-15. Only the top two teams from Hayden's pool (Rangely and Meeker) advanced to the tournament semifinals where only the top two overall teams advanced to the regional tournament.
Hayden's fate already had been sealed the Friday night in a pool-play loss to bitter county rival Soroco. The Tigers rallied in game two, but could not sustain the momentum, losing in four games to the Rams, 25-19, 21-25, 25-10, 25-17.
"There was not enough motivation on the court last night," Hayden senior Brianna Ford said. "I thought we played hard and stuck together, but we'd get down on ourselves and have a tough time sticking together."
Hayden opened pool play with a loss to a Meeker team that it beat in regular season league play Oct. 16. Meeker, the No. 5 seed won in three games, 25-21, 25-23, 25-16.
That set up the must-win match against Soroco, a team Hayden had also defeated in league play.
"We missed a lot of serves that killed us," Hayden senior Janna Hoza said. "That was a tough loss."
At 0-2, facing impending elimination, Hayden's Kylee Sweetser said Saturday's final game would be "just for giggles, I guess."
Hayden came out strong and stuck with Rangely (9-0 in league without a single game loss) in the first game. The Tigers played with some urgency in game two, and a block and a kill from Rachael Koehler cut the Rangely lead to 13-9. But then the Hayden serve-receive fell apart as Rangely's Whitney Chumacero served for 10 straight unanswered points to end the game 20-11.
By game three, the Rangely offense, led by senior all-state outside hitter Kirstin Cushman, was in full swing. With Hayden's assistant coaches pumping fists during timeouts to rally the contingent of fans who made the trip, the Tigers mustered a late point streak with a kill from Holli Salazar, but the Tigers hole was already too deep.
"Hayden's so athletic and big," Rangely coach David Walck said. "But they do some things defensively that we can attack and try to take them out of their hitting system."
"It was fun though - it was a good year," Ford said as the departing seniors exchanged a few hugs before the ride home.