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Sailors girls opt for uptempo attack this season

— Senior Maggie Crouch is eyeing a 4A state playoffs Sweet 16 berth. New Sailors girls basketball coach Mack Spitellie simply wants his squad to realize its early-season potential first.

After Steamboat went 13-12 last year and 6-8 in league play, former coach John Ameen retired, paving the way for Spitellie to take the Sailors' reigns.

There are a few experienced seniors back this year, and the season outlook is strong with the Sailors' first game looming Dec. 2 at Grand Junction Central. Still, the first-year coach doesn't need to look back much further than how the 2012-13 campaign played out to know where the team's focus should be.

"I think we have such a good core group that it's going to be scary," Spitellie said. "I've said that for years, even with John, and we'll see. Last year, we had extreme depth, and some games we played like it, and some games we played like we were freshman."

Last season, the Sailors shot out of the gates with a 4-1 start, then struggled, losing five of their next six games. Steamboat then traded wins and losses over the next seven contests.

Still, Steamboat snagged an opening-round win in the 4A state playoffs over Green Mountain before ending its season with a 37-24 loss against a 21-4 Windsor team.

Back from last year is Crouch, who averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds per game. Alongside Crouch is fellow senior Mikaila Jegtvig, who turned in 7 points and 3 rebounds per game in 2012-13. Crouch said the sneaky key piece to this year's team might be center Maddie Robertson, who hasn't played since her freshman year because of injuries.

With deep shooters who can play multiple positions like Crouch and Jegtvig, Spitellie is looking to implement an uptempo attack unlike anything seen on a Steamboat girls varsity squad in recent seasons.

"Our philosophy with this group is pushing the ball a lot more than we did the last few years," Spitellie said. "We don't want to settle."

Offensively, things look promising in the early going. Defensively, Spitellie said his team still is figuring things out. But it's early, and the Sailors coach is hoping his defensive press will gel as the season wears on.

Early-season woes may not bode well for the Sailors, who play seven of their first 10 games on the road. To get through that stretch, Spitellie said he would lean heavily on four of his senior leaders who are up to the challenge.

Crouch is one of those leaders. She feels pressure, but she's also determined to not let it get in the way of her team's goals. After all, there could be a Sweet 16 bid on the line.

"I do” feel pressure, Crouch said. "But I just play. I do whatever I can to help us win. As long as everyone does what they need to do, we will win."

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll