Furious rally falls just short for Steamboat volleyball | SteamboatToday.com

Furious rally falls just short for Steamboat volleyball

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — If Thursday's match against Eagle Valley served as a microcosm of the season the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team, the Sailors have plenty to be proud of, but they may not have a lot of volleyball left.

The Sailors were down and oh-so-nearly out in the match, against one of the league's best teams and nevertheless less nearly a must win. They staged a furious rally, however, clawed back into one set and won it, then won the next before their momentum finally faded in a pressure-packed fifth set.

Eagle Valley weathered the insanity to win, 27-25, 25-15, 22-25, 18-25, 15-13.

The loss was tough for a Sailors team riding the bubble to qualify for the regional tournament, but it wasn't one that left the team feeling any shame.

"They fought their hearts out," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. "They left it all on the court and that's all we ever ask of them. Leave it all out there and let the chips fall where they may.

"Tonight, we were two chips short."

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Steamboat just missed on a golden opportunity to win the first set, giving up a 24-22 lead late.

The Sailors then stumbled hard in the second set and seemed on their way to a three-set defeat in the third, trailing 18-13.

Something clicked, however, and the tram stormed back. It tied things at 20, then took the lead and stole the set.

They were even better in the fourth. Steamboat suddenly was coming up with big blocks when it needed them. The team had two in the first two sets, then eight in the rest of the match. Seniors Micah Feeley and Esté Wilkinson and junior Abi Berlet led the way, each recording three on the night.

"The biggest difference in the turnaround was the block," Hall said. "You don't win a match on blocks, but that's what changed the momentum for us, and they changed what they were doing because of it."

The team served better. Back-to-back aces from Wyleigh Myers gave Steamboat the lead in the middle of the fourth set.

It hit better. Feeley was red hot as the set wore on and Anna Allsberry crushed a ball near the end to give Steamboat a 21-18 lead.

The Sailors weren't cold in the fifth set, either. An Allsberry smash made it 7-7 at one point. A Feeley tap made it 11-11 later and Steamboat even led, 12-11. A Wilkinson hit pulled the Sailors within one late, 14-13 in the first-to-15 fifth-set format, but Eagle Valley closed out the match.

In doing so, the Devils secured a piece of the Western Slope League championship for the second consecutive year and the third time in the last four. (Steamboat won it in 2015 to break that streak.)
This year they'll share it with Glenwood Springs after those teams split their two matches this season.

"This is a talented group," coach Jacki Rindy said. "We're losing a lot of seniors, but they worked hard to win it again this year."

For the Sailors, the off, then on, then just a little short format of Thursday's match may have proven just a little too familiar. The team was rough out of the gate this season. It caught fire in the second half of the season, and, in the end, it may come up just a little shy of the regional tournament.

The top 36 teams in the Colorado High School Activities Association RPI standings will make the field. With teams across the state constantly playing games and thus shifting measures such as strength of schedule, the rankings are constantly in motion. Earlier in the week the Sailors floated to 35th without playing a match.

They were 37th Wednesday and 38th Thursday before losing to Eagle Valley.

They have one match left to add to their rank, Saturday on the road against a struggling Rifle team.

Hall wasn't confident a win there would be enough. Despite seeing that door creep closed Thursday, however, after watching her athletes make that rally, she was anything but depressed.

"We just have to go get the Rifle match and see what happens," Hall said. "We're playing our best volleyball of the season right now and that's all you can hope for."

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