Saturday showdown set for Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Saturday showdown set for Steamboat

Steamboat coach Wendy Hall addresses her team during a match earlier this season. The Sailors will attempt to continue their season starting at 11 a.m. Saturday as they play in the regional volleyball tournament in Steamboat.

— The message Erie coach Russ Fox said he plans to pass along to his team — the theme to fire it up and believe it can come into Steamboat Springs on Saturday, matchup with the best volleyball team the Sailors have fielded in more than a decade, and come away regional champions — is one Western Slope League teams have heard plenty of times before.

"We've played a tougher schedule, and they're not used to seeing as tough of teams as we are," Fox said, imagining a pre-game pep talk.

Indeed, Erie has played a tougher schedule, and how Steamboat — starting play in the regional tournament at 11 a.m. Saturday in Kelly Meek Gymnasium in Steamboat Springs — responds to that challenge could decide whether the Sailors can take the next step in postseason play.

Steamboat plays host to Erie and Silver Creek on Saturday.

The day will open with the Sailors taking on Silver Creek. Silver Creek and Erie will then play at approximately 12:30 p.m., and the Sailors return to play Erie about 2 p.m.

The winner will advance to the state tournament, scheduled for Nov. 13 and 14 in Denver.

Recommended Stories For You

The Sailors sport 10 seniors, many of whom have been filling the starting lineup since their sophomore year. It all came together this season in a run to the Western Slope League championship, and now, that team is hoping it can ride its veteran savvy and a season of momentum one step further.

"We've been challenged enough to be ready for this," Hall said.

Steamboat's the 8th seed in the state and the top in its regional.

Winning is anything but a sure thing, however, and if the Sailors are to advance, they'll need to beat both one of the best team's they've seen this season and a young team playing with nothing to lose.

Erie comes in as the No. 15-ranked team, but was shifted to the No. 17 seed. Led by a pair of big-time hitters, the Tigers have been able to smash their way through the competition this season.

"We've got the tools and ability to take a shot at it, and I would guess we're at least good enough to make them nervous," Fox said.

Silver Creek, meanwhile, is No. 29. Coach Jill Olson said her sophomore- and junior-heavy team will make the trip with both a "happy to be here" attitude and a "play hard, see what happens" approach.

It will add up to plenty of pressure for the Sailors, but Hall said pressure hasn't caused her team to wilt yet this season. It had to go on the road and beat two of its toughest league competitors to finish the regular season.

The Sailors responded to win the league title and earn what they'll get Saturday: a home regional.

"They didn't panic, and they didn't start doubting themselves," Hall said. "These kids have played well under pressure all year, and they know to focus on controlling the point they have in front of them."

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

Saturday schedule

11 a.m. Steamboat vs. Silver Creek

12:30 p.m. Erie vs. Silver Creek

2 p.m. Steamboat vs. Erie

No. 8 Steamboat Springs Sailors, 19-3

First in Western Slope League

Stat leaders

No. 15 Jenna Miller, 185 kills

No. 10 Hayley Johnson, 173 kills

No. 14 Maddie Labor, 386 digs

Strength

At the best, the Sailors hope to emulate a brick wall with their ability to always get the ball back over the net. Labor, playing at libero, is the first piece of that, and the twin setters Abigail and Maritza Wiedel (658 assists between them) are the next key component.

Weakness

A lack of a reliable blocking hamstrung the team early in the season. The Sailors have been better recently, but hard-hitting Erie will reveal just how well those holes were patched.

Coach’s corner:

“We’re well rounded. That’s why we won the league. Everyone had some sort of weakness in their game, and they had trouble finding ours and exploiting it.” — Coach Wendy Hall

No. 17 Erie Tigers, 15-8

Fifth in Tri-Valley League

Stat leaders

No. 7 Mya Michaelson, 215 kills.

No. 3 Katia Fitzgerald, 125 kills, 666 assists

No. 2 Shania Ysac, 119 kills

Strength

It’s all about offense for the Tigers. The squad has six players averaging more than a kill per set. Sophomore Mya Michaelson has been a nice surprise inside.

Weakness

The team isn’t as strong defensively and serve receive in particular can be the Achilles’ heel. It’s been a focus this week in practice, but Fox said it’s often either “on” or “off” for his squad.

Coach’s corner

“We have a shot, especially if we can play some defense to let our offense do its work.” — Coach Russ Fox

No. 29 Silver Creek Raptors, 11-12

Third in Northern League

Stat leaders

No. 3 Rylee Anderson, 178 kills

No. 4 Taylor Merriman, 174 kills

No. 5 Tori Schindler, 170 kills

Strength

The Raptors are balanced on offense and turn to a bevy of hitters, but it’s on defense where a young team has come along the fastest.

Weakness

Almost from the top of the roster to the bottom, Silver Creek’s athletes were playing junior varsity a year ago, so this is their first taste of the postseason and high-pressure matches.

Coach’s corner

“This was a two-year plan with these girls … we’re coming on real strong at the end of our season, meshing together and playing at the speed we need to play it.” — Coach Jill Olson