Girl's end season to North Park

— For the first time in four years, Donald Rolando and his Hayden girls basketball team are not playing in the post-season.

Four times in a row Rolando and his girls team made it to the regionals in Grand Junction with a chance to go to state only to fall short each time.

This year the Tigers did not even get a chance to go to Grand Junction because they lost to North Park in the semifinals of the district tournament.

"It was strange not making the trip to Grand Junction this year," Rolando said. "I didn't like it very much. I can tell you that."

Although Hayden, 11-10, did not reach the regional tournament, Rolando said he believes his team had a successful season.

The team finished in third-place despite losing three starters off of last year's team.

A highlight of Hayden's season is they were able to overcome an 18-point deficit on the road against Grand Valley in January.

Other highlights, were the Tigers were able to defeat Plateau Valley tree times and Soroco twice during the season.

Rolando was also proud of the effort his team gave against eventual conference champion West Grand even though the Tigers dropped both games.

"When you look at our team and the competition our girls were matched up with, our girls battled hard against bigger players," Rolando said.

The Tigers will lose four seniors, who all started, off this year's team. Rolando will have to replace three-year starter Natalie McDonald, two-year starter Ashley Bell. Also graduating are forwards Robin Chiaro and Andrea Orpi.

"I will miss them," Rolando said of the four seniors. "You watch them grown and nurture them. Then there is a day that comes when they are gone.

"This was a special group. They overcame a lot in four years. They weren't very big, but they used every bit of talent they had. They got to win a lot of basketball games."

With the loss of four starters, Rolando does not consider next year a a rebuilding year. Sophomore Adriana Svoboda will be the only returning starter next year.

"We are looking for a lot of big things out of her," Rolando said of Svoboda. "She is a complete player. We will be expecting a lot of minutes and leadership out of her."

Along with Svoboda, Rolando believes sophomore Jaclyn Etzler will be ready to assume the point guard position.

"We have been grooming her for the position," Rolando said. "I think she is ready."

Rolando is also expecting strong play from four juniors, Anna Lighthizer, Sabrina Gregory, Kristin Brown and Amanda Murphy, who will be back next year as seniors,.

"I don't think we will be rebuilding," he said. "We will have seven solid players coming back next year."

Also expected to return to the varsity squad next year is freshman Jana Denker. Rolando is also excited about next year's incoming freshmen class.

"All in all we had a good season," Rolando said. "But not getting back to regionals is a disappointment."

To reach Gary Salazar call 871-4205 or e-mail gsalazar@steamboatpilot.com

The Hayden girls and boys basketball teams will be honored during an awards banquet set for 7 p.m. March 15 at the Hayden Middle School gymnasium.

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