Steamboat optimistic as volleyball season begins |

Steamboat optimistic as volleyball season begins

Steamboat Springs senior Madi Owen dives for a ball during volleyball practice Wednesday. The Sailors kick off their volleyball season Friday with the start of a tournament in Glenwood Springs.

— The Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team was just a bit better than average, 13-10, last year, and in the four seniors it graduated, it lost some of its top players from that squad.

When the Sailors talk about the new season, however, their eyes light up. Words like "regionals" and "state" fly, and goals like winning the Western Slope League are deemed possible.

"We're going to surprise some people this year," junior Maddie Labor said. "People don't know what we're doing behind the scenes.”

So, what's with the optimism? Coach Wendy Hall said it has roots in that up-and-down season last year, but it didn't show just on the varsity record.

This year's team will be tough, conditioned and rounded, Hall said, and plenty of that is thanks to the seasoning the squad picked up a year ago in practices, when the junior varsity and varsity squads clashed.

The junior varsity team finished its season 18-1, and when it matched up with the Steamboat varsity squad, it often played the matches nearly to a draw.

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There's Hall's proof that there are good players coming up. Add in returning starters such as Labor, senior Taylor Harrington and the twin junior setters Maritza and Abigail Wiedel, and yeah, she's excited.

"We have high expectations," Hall said. "So far, the girls have put in the time to meet those expectations. It hasn't just started this month. They really played last winter and this summer and worked very hard to condition themselves."

The test begins Friday, when the team travels to Glenwood Springs for a 12-team, two-day tournament. The field is divided into four, three-team pods and Steamboat will play twice Friday, against Rifle and Erie, then be seeded for Saturday's action.

The team the Sailors hope to put out on the court will be well-rounded, not exceptionally tall but, in Hall's words, athletic.

"We have some awesome chemistry, and we're really excited and ready for the tournament," Harrington said.

If all goes well, this tournament could just be the start for what the Sailors are hoping is a long and prosperous season.

"They're jumping higher. They seem to be quicker. They're more mature. They're more confident. They're just better," Hall said. "I'm really excited to see how we stack up."

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

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