Tigers volleyball team hopes to avoid relapse

2007 district tournament signaled low point for Hayden; 2008 hopes high

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District 5, at Paonia

The situation, at a glance, doesn't look very different. The Hayden High School volleyball team entered its district tournament a year ago as the fourth seed. Now, the Tigers will roll into today's tournament, in Paonia, as the third seed.

The situation, at a glance, doesn't look very different. The Hayden High School volleyball team entered its district tournament a year ago as the fourth seed. Now, the Tigers will roll into today's tournament, in Paonia, as the third seed.

Hayden had a winning record a year ago, and it has one again.

Still, senior Holli Salazar said everything's different this year, and she's confident the outcome will be, as well.

Hayden bombed out of last year's district tournament, losing all three of its matches in what became the low point of the season.

"We have more fundamentals this year," Salazar said. "We're all getting along better this year, so it will be different. We are going in confident, but not cocky."

The Tigers start their tournament at 4:30 p.m. today against Vail Mountain, then play at 7:30 p.m. against Vail Christian. The Tigers will play the highest seed in their round-robin pool, Rangely, on Saturday.

If results from earlier this year are any indication, Hayden could be riding high by the time it confronts the Panthers. Hayden beat up on Vail Christian and Vail Mountain this season, routing both in three-game matches.

"We know we have to take care of business and we're taking everyone seriously," Hayden coach Greg Johnson said. "We focused this week on positive attitude, making sure our girls believe in themselves. They responded well, and we had good, hard practices the last couple of days."

Hayden's biggest challenge within its own pool will come from Rangely, which thumped the Tigers in four games in Hayden several weeks ago. The Panthers ground Hayden's offense to a halt with seemingly ever-present blocks and kept the final two games from even being close.

The top two teams from Hayden's pool will advance to a four-team playoff against the top two teams from the other pool, which consists of Paonia, Meeker, Plateau Valley and West Grand.

Meeker should be the class of the group after emerging atop the Western Slope league and earning an automatic bid to the regional tournament. Hayden dropped a pair of matches to the Cowboys earlier this season but is confident it can play with anyone it faces. As many as three teams can advance from the tournament to regionals. The two teams that make the championship game will qualify, as will Meeker if it's not among them.

"If we pass the ball well, we will do fine with anyone we play this weekend," Johnson said. "If we do make mistakes, we need to make sure we aren't compounding them. That's what we've done against the best teams - we make a mistake, then let them go on long runs. We can't do that this weekend."

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