Steamboat Springs volleyball team falters in the end

Steamboat Springs' Alex Feeley, left, hugs fellow senior Nikki Fry, who has been injured this season, during senior night at the Steamboat Springs High School gym. The Sailors recognized Feeley, Fry  and Emily Spiess at the start of the game against Middle Park.

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Steamboat Springs junior Mikaila Jegtvig hits the ball over the net during Tuesday night's volleyball match against Middle Park High School. The Sailors fell in five sets.

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Steamboat Springs junior Ellie Becker attempts to block a shot in the first game of Tuesday's match against Middle Park.

2012 Sailors volleyball schedule

— There was a clear difference in the effect consistent winning and losing had had on the two teams.

In one corner, Middle Park — the winner of 14 games coming in to Tuesday's match — found itself down a pair of games.

On the other corner, the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team — the definition of inconsistency this year — was up, its emotions showing through.

A short 46 minutes later, Middle Park walked away with an improbable win, tilting Steamboat’s emotions the way of Philip Rivers. The Panthers won, 23-25, 24-26, 25-14, 25-20 and 15-6.

“That’s a team that’s used to winning,” Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. “Even down two sets they believed they can win. This is a team that unfortunately has gotten used to losing. When they started coming back, we got doubt in our heads.”

It’s been an interesting paradigm for the Sailors this season. Even with a young team, Steamboat showed early signs of competing in a muddled Western Slope League. But as in Tuesday’s game, when things started going the other way, Steamboat never seems to find an answer.

“We’re not very good at picking ourselves up,” said Steamboat senior Alex Feeley, who arguably had her best game as a prep player, finishing with 25 kills on a softball-sized ankle hurt last weekend in Rifle. “It can’t just be a couple of girls trying to pick it up. I guess that’s something we’ve got to work on.”

Emotions were on display early on.

Steamboat was efficient and emotional in the first two games when it jumped out to lead, withstood Panthers charges and won points when it mattered.

But early in the third game, the momentum seemed to shift.

“Yeah,” Hall said, “I could sense it.”

The Panthers were a different team, feeling things slide their way.

“This team I’ve been working with since they were seventh-graders,” Middle Park coach Nicci Guerrieri said. “They’ve always been the comeback team. They really don’t let anything get them down. They’ve always been that way.”

Middle Park was scrappier than Steamboat, and setter Kelly Allen took over the game. The senior set, spiked, tapped and controlled every bit of the game in her 5-foot-10 frame.

In the fifth and deciding set, Steamboat took an early 3-1 lead but lacked emotion. Middle Park, behind Allen, started to again take control before a Steamboat time out.

“I can’t find a time out recipe to break it,” Hall said. “My effectiveness to turn them around hasn’t been good. Part of a coach's job is to get a team turned around in tough moments, and I’m not doing a good job of that.”

The Panthers continued the onslaught, eventually completing the comeback.

Steamboat (8-11) next plays at 6 p.m. Thursday at Glenwood Springs.

“I’m a little bit perplexed where to go from here in practice,” Hall said. “We have to do something to break out of the tailspin we’re in. We have two games left. Hopefully, we can finish on a high note.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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