Tigers rebound in 2008 | SteamboatToday.com

Tigers rebound in 2008

Strong season not spoiled by tiebreak frustrations

Soroco's Ceanna Rossi, Shelby Miles and Lauryn Bruggink watch as the Rams lead starts to slip in Tuesday night's district pigtail playoff game with Plateau Valley High School in Oak Creek. The Rams won the first two games of the match, but dropped the final three, losing to the Cowboys in a heartbreaking 3-2 match.

— The end of the season was frustrating and confusing for the Hayden volleyball team. The high school squad fell into a three-way tie after the pool-play round of the district tournament and got the raw end of the deal, losing in a tiebreaking game to Rangely to close out the year.

Coach Greg Johnson said once the dust settled, it wasn’t hard to take pride in the season, however.

The Tigers, coming off a maddening 2007 campaign, finished 16-6 and proved to be one of the most powerful teams in the area.

The season featured an incredibly fast start – Hayden was 9-1 early – and strong play from upper and underclassmen.

“I thought we had the talent right away from the first practice, but I was surprised by our start,” Johnson said. “It just clicked early and we were playing exceptionally well as a team.”

Hayden’s high tide came with a Sept. 20 victory against Vail Mountain that proved sweet for several reasons.

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The Tigers the night before had avenged their only loss to that point, knocking off West Grand. Then, they throttled Vail Mountain. It was one of three 2008 victories against the school that eventually would advance past Hayden in the district tiebreaking disaster.

Hayden was led by senior Holli Salazar, who finished with 186 kills. Senior Kylee Sweetser finished with 163.

Junior Rachel Koehler led the way with 91 blocks, ahead of Salazar’s 51 and freshman Erin Koehler’s 50.

Caitlyn Mahanna had 195 assists and Salazar finished with 51 aces to lead those categories.

“At the time we were disappointed we didn’t move on,” Johnson said of the post-season result. “But, looking back now, we realize we had a pretty successful season that just didn’t work out the way we would have liked.”

Ugly end to season doesn’t worry Rams

It may have seemed unlikely as the Soroco volleyball team struggled through its schedule, but things actually got worse for the Rams at season’s end.

They lost their final match in heartbreaking fashion, failing to advance to the district tournament after winning the first two games of the tournament’s play-in match. Plateau Valley, one of only two teams the Rams did beat in the regular season, rallied to win the final three games and earn the tournament’s final spot.

It’s in the ashes of that loss that Soroco High School coach Kim Reeves said she hopes a new team was born. Rather than a crippling kick in the gut to an already down-and-out team, she said it could form the backbone of what will be an experienced 2009 squad.

“We are really hoping it will be a motivator for the girls who are still going to be with us next year,” Reeves said. “We hope it left a bad taste in their mouth so when they come back next year, they will say it won’t happen again.”

Reeves said she saw improvement throughout the recently finished season, though that didn’t always translate into consistency on the court. That shortcoming was clear even in the team’s wins. Soroco (2-12) lost games and trailed against North Park and Plateau Valley, but roared back both times to win.

The squad loses an important group of seniors, including Sarajane Rossi and Tatum Lombardi, who were listed by Reeves as the team’s most valuable players. Still, large freshman and sophomore classes – including many players who already have tested the varsity waters – leave Reeves and the Rams plenty of reason to figure 2009 will be different.

“We definitely saw improvement,” she said. “We have a very strong team coming back, especially the freshman and sophomore classes, so I really think we’re going to be able to fill those shoes of the seniors that are leaving.”