Building blocks key for Sailors |

Building blocks key for Sailors

Steamboat's Micah Feeley, left, and Hayley Johnson reach for a block against Rifle during the 2015 season.
Joel Reichenberger

— It doesn’t look easy, but the act of defensive blocking in volleyball doesn’t look complicated, either.

When a team is expecting a big hit at the net, one, two, even three players leap up at the net and stretch their arms up, hoping to effectively extend that barrier a few extra inches.

If all goes well, the opposing player will smack the ball into the extended arms, the ball will bounce back in her face and the point will go to the blockers.

Sound easy? It’s not, and just how the rest of the season goes for the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team could hinge on whether the squad can master that art.

The team’s next test in blocking comes at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in a huge home match against rival Battle Mountain.

“It’s easy to lose confidence in blocking,” said senior Maddie Labor.

She doesn’t block herself but, as the team’s libero, helps set up the defense on the court.

“We need to get our confidence back,” she said. “You have to set up right with the hitter and know their tendencies. If they hit line, you have to block line. Then you have to get in the hitter’s head, so they know you’re there, ready to stuff them.

“We developed it last year, but we need to get back in the rhythm.”

Blocking has been one of the Sailors’ main deficiencies through the first half of the season. Hall said the team didn’t record a single block last month in its only league loss, a home match against Eagle Valley. In a tighter-than-expected game against Summit last week, Steamboat only had a few.

“We are not blocking a similar style of offense in practice,” Hall said after the Summit game. “We set the ball a little higher to the outside. Both of the teams we’ve struggled with set the ball lower to the outside, and we’ve been late on blocks. We need to make that adjustment, to learn to be there a little quicker.”

Getting players into position for blocks faster won’t be an option if Steamboat is to realize its goals. It will need to happen.

“We have to get better at it if we’re going to beat some of these big hitting teams,” Hall said.

Steamboat enters the match 12-2, while the Huskies are 6-4. They both have one league loss, however, and both are a part of a three-way tie, with Eagle Valley, at the top of the Western Slope League.

Battle Mountain has won four straight, including the match that gave Eagle Valley its only league loss.

The Huskies have exactly the kind of hitter that have given Steamboat trouble, too. Senior Jordan Brandt has 119 kills on the season and has tallied 20 or more three times. She racked up 37 in two matches against Steamboat last season.

“We have to come into the day, right when we wake up, thinking, ‘This is the day when we show them what we have,’” Labor said. “We need to come into it and go after it full force.”

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

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