The Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team celebrates a point Tuesday night in a four-set win against Eagle Valley. The Sailors have had a lot to celebrate early this season, and they hope to keep the good times rolling Thursday and Saturday in a pair of important road games.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

The Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team celebrates a point Tuesday night in a four-set win against Eagle Valley. The Sailors have had a lot to celebrate early this season, and they hope to keep the good times rolling Thursday and Saturday in a pair of important road games.

Sailors volleyball hopes to carry on early success

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— It isn’t exactly a surprise, Steamboat Springs High School volleyball coach Wendy Hall explained.

Hall said hard work and strong focus have helped the team take advantage of opportunities early this season, and now that work has paid off and deposited the Sailors near the top of the Western Slope League standings.

With admittedly plenty of volleyball remaining this season, Steamboat’s set in second place behind Battle Mountain. That’s quite a jump for a team that went 3-9 against the league a year ago, finishing tied for last.

“I’m not surprised. I just felt after our first couple of weeks that we could be really good this year,” Hall said.

Steamboat’s only blemish in league play is a five-set slip-up against Delta last weekend. It already has wins against four of the seven teams in the league, and it hopes to add a fifth Thursday when it travels to play at Glenwood Springs, 1-2 in the league and 4-5 on the season.

But can they keep it up?

Steamboat’s been a bit of an enigma. It had a negative hitting percentage in the game it lost to Delta yet still was looking a win in the eye. The Sailors led early in the deciding set before one final collapse did them in.

On Tuesday, Eagle Valley looked superior at times, setting up powerful hits from a bevy of kill artists. But Steamboat hung on through the storms, was dynamic on defense, creative on offense and closer to perfect than Eagle Valley throughout the evening to win in four sets.

“We aren’t putting the ball down very much, but we’re staying in long rallies,” Hall said.

A number of things may explain Steamboat’s early-season surge.

For one, the team scored big with move-in Maddie Robertson, who led the team Tuesday night with six kills.

Then Alexis Len, the team’s libero, returned this year after missing most of the 2012 season with an injury.

“That’s one of the reasons why,” Hall said. “If you don’t have a good libero, you won’t be very good. They just touch too many balls.”

Add in a few big development steps taken by underclassmen and you have Steamboat setting out on a road trip this weekend hoping to beat Glenwood Springs at 6:30 p.m. Thursday and complete a sweep of Eagle Valley on Saturday.

When the Sailors return, they’ll face Battle Mountain on Tuesday in a match that could prove crucial. That would be the seventh league game of the season, the first one of the second half. The Huskies are undefeated in the league and haven’t even lost a set since their first match of the season.

“When I saw how hard these girls were willing to work, when I saw as a whole how hard they were willing to let me push them, that’s a good combination,” Hall said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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