Hayden’s Jacie Temple celebrates after the Hayden Tigers scored a point in the second game of Tuesday’s district playoff match against West Grand. Hayden won, 3-1.

Photo by John F. Russell

Hayden’s Jacie Temple celebrates after the Hayden Tigers scored a point in the second game of Tuesday’s district playoff match against West Grand. Hayden won, 3-1.

Hayden volleyball beats West Grand in playoff match

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Hayden’s Aubree Haskins blocks a shot at the net during Tuesday night’s district playoff game against West Grand. Hayden won its first playoff game, 3-1.

— The Tigers were expected to win their first-round district playoff game against West Grand on Tuesday in Hayden.

But the while the home team dominated most of the match en route to a 3-1 victory, it was more difficult for Tigers coach Holli Palmer than you might expect.

Palmer, whose family has ranched in the Kremmling area for five generations, had to be torn as she sat on the sideline with her new team: the Hayden Tigers.

On the other side of the court, her sister Bailey was playing for the opposing team, a team that Palmer coached last season.

“Yeah, it was hard. I coached most of those girls last year, and my family was in the stands,” Palmer said after the match. “But this is my team. … I’m with Hayden now, and I’m happy about that.”

Palmer said she was proud of the way her girls played in Tuesday’s match, proud of how the team was able to overcome a third-game meltdown and proud of the way the Hayden players rebounded to take the match.

“Everybody on the team had a great night,” Palmer said. “We played really well as a group, and that’s all I could ask.”

The Tigers and Mustangs were tied at 19 points each late in the first game, but the Hayden girls came up with several key kills down the stretch to pull away from the No. 7-seeded Mustangs in a 25-22 game.

Hayden, behind strong play at the net from senior Erin Koehler, seemed to take control of the match in the second game. After dropping the first point of the game, senior Jacie Temple stepped to the service line and helped the Tigers take the next 16 points of the match and a 17-2 advantage in the game. The Tigers surrendered a few points down the line but went up, 2-0, with a 25-5 win.

“Everything was just clicking, and our confidence was pretty high,” Koehler said. “We had kind of a letdown in the third game, but we were able to come right back.”

In the third game, the visiting team jumped out to a 10-7 lead and then held off several runs by the Tigers to extend the match with a 25-12 win. West Grand middle Laura Billington, who had 19 kills in the match, and outside hitter Chyenne Sims, who netted six kills, led the comeback effort.

But that was as close as the Mustangs would come to upsetting the Tigers on Hayden’s home court. Hayden came out swinging in the final game of the night and closed out the match with a convincing 25-12 victory.

“We just didn’t want to overlook them,” Koehler said. “I think that helped us stay focused, and that’s what made us successful tonight.”

The Tigers now will start preparing for Saturday and the continuation of the district tournament, which will take place on the other side of the county in Oak Creek.

“Our main goal was to win the first round of the district playoffs,” Hayden’s Aubree Haskins said. “We just have to stay focused on our next game. I think if we can do that, we will be successful.”

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com

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