Saturday, September 8, 2001
Steamboat Springs Middle Park suffered the same fate Saturday night that every other opponent facing the Sailors girls volleyball team did so far this year they lost in two games.
But Middle Park isn't just any other team. It is a traditional volleyball powerhouse and has three of the state's top-ranked players.
Those statistics did not intimidate the 7-0 Sailors as they came out strong to win 15-9 and 15-8 in their first home match.
"They don't really know how good of a team they just beat," Wendy Hall said of her team that consists of all juniors and sophomores. "For this time of year they are playing some really nice volleyball."
The match's closest point came early in the second game with the Sailors down 5-7 after Panthers' outside hitter Renee Babcock pounded the ball over the net.
The strong blocking duo of Allison Griffing and Katie Carter stopped a Panther hit to give the Sailors a side out and put Abby Fritz up to serve.
Fritz would go on to serve the Sailors next six points as they fought back to an 11-7 lead that helped clinch a match victory.
The 5-7 deficit was the first time the Sailors had been trailing a team all year.
"It was the unknown on how they were going to react to that," Hall said. "We didn't look scared, we stuck with our game plan. Good defense, good passing and keeping the ball in play."
The Panthers would squeak out one more point as the Sailors made their way to 15. Setter Rebecca Gray served up an ace for point 14. Then, the Sailors clinched the match as Lizzie Sack and Bayli Stillwell went up for a block sending a ball over the net that the Panthers couldn't return.
"We were very well prepared," blocker Carter said. "We read the hitters great. The outside hits we could dig them up and block."
Carter led the team defensively and offensively with nine kills and four blocks.
"I was really excited, a little nervous. Middle Park's a big team," Carter said.
The Sailors came out strong in the first game with Fritz once again serving her team to a six-point lead. Fritz's serving highlighted one of the Panthers' biggest flaws, their serve receiving.
"Her serves were critical in giving us the nice cushion we enjoy playing with. She is serving tough, but keeping them in play. They couldn't handle her," Hall said.
Middle Park came into the game ranked as the No. 8 3A school in the state by the Rocky Mountain News, and as an offense with top-ranked hitter Babcock and setter Erin Cherrington. Hall predicted that Middle Park would be a team to watch come state tournament time.
"Middle Park is going to be in the thick of things. This team is going to get a lot better," she said.
Late in the first game, the Panthers rebounded to a 13-9 lead.
But Carter hammered a ball over the net the Panthers could not recover giving the Sailors a side out. Middle Park went on to hit a ball out of bounds and miss a set to hand the Sailors the final two points for the first game win.
The freshman and J.V. teams had close matches with Middle Park. The freshmen won in three games (15-7, 5-15 and 15-9).
The J.V. lost its first game 13-15, fought back from a 4-11 deficit to win the second game 15-12, but then lost its final game 14-16.
The Sailors face league action next Friday as they travel to Delta.