Rangely If imitation is the most sincere form flattery, Rangely, the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A District 5 tournament, paid the Soroco volleyball team a huge compliment in how it prepared for Friday's opening match of the tournament with the Rams.
Rangely coach David Walck said he had sent out text messages to his team when Soroco defeated Plateau Valley on Oct. 23 to earn the No. 8 tournament seed.
"They texted me right back saying, 'I knew they would; they don't give up,'" Walck said. "They're such a scrappy ball club, I knew we had to adjust our game."
Soroco had defeated Rangely in the preseason, so Walck designed a drill for Rangely's final practice to mimic the Rams' style of play.
"We lined up eight girls and just practiced hitting the diggers where you're relentlessly pursuing the ball like they do," Walck said. "You can hit the ball at (Soroco), and they make some amazing plays."
Maybe the Rams gave away their secret. Rangely beat Soroco, 25-19, 25-21, 25-15, at its own game during the first of three pool-play matches.
Soroco battled back to even its record with an upset win against No. 4 Hayden, 25-19, 21-25, 25-10, 25-17.
"The girls wanted to beat them so bad," Soroco coach Kim Reeves said. "They were just motivated and wanted to win."
The even 1-1 record put Soroco in a must-win scenario Saturday morning in its final pool-play match with Meeker, the No. 5 seed and a team with an equal 1-1 record that also needed the win to advance to the tournament semifinals. This year, only the top two District 5 teams earned the right to advance to the regional tournament.
The Soroco offense came out primed, spreading out kills between Glenda Long, Amanda Wilson, Kelsey Samuelson and Sarajane Rossi to establish a 15-12 lead. Unfortunately, Soroco had a string of hitting errors to give up the lead that they failed to regain for the remainder of the first and for the entire second game.
"Our team intensity wasn't up, not celebrating after every point," Samuelson said. "We could've played better."
Wilson knocked down a pair of kills to spark the Rams early in game three to jump ahead 8-2. But Meeker, behind outside hitters Hannah Fitzgibbons and Minky Clark, answered with some well-placed kills to jump ahead 20-11 and hold on for the game and the match win, 25-19, 25-11, 25-16.
"The biggest thing is that the girls have never been intimidated and have always played like we had a winning record and played well against everyone," Reeves said. "There's a lot of pressure involved in (the Meeker game), and I was so proud of our girls to have overcome so much."