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No. 1

Sailors on top of Western Slope

Scott Stanford

— Steamboat Springs overcame a shaky start Saturday to down Palisade 15-7, 15-2 and remain unbeaten in the Western Slope League. It is the first time in three years the Sailors have beaten Palisade in Steamboat Springs.

“We knew we had to come out and really try,” Steamboat senior Allison Griffing said. “There might have been some nerves in the first game because we knew Palisade is a good team. It’s exciting to finally beat them on our home court.”

The first game was a seesaw battle that featured 26 sideouts. After going up 1-0 on a kill by Katie Carter, the Sailors lost the next three points. Steamboat then reeled off six points, including two points off kills by Bayli Stillwell, to grab a 7-3 lead.

Steamboat errors pulled Palisade to within 7-5. But Steamboat stretched that lead to 9-5 on a net error by Palisade and a kill by Carter.

Palisade’s Sarah Rickard had a kill to force a sideout and then got another one to close the margin to 9-6. But Steamboat stretched the lead again behind the serving of Stillwell, who led the Sailors to the next four points for a 13-6 lead.

After giving up a point to Palisade on a kill by Kaela Hellman, Steamboat forced a sideout on a kill by Carter. Valerie Finch served an ace for a 14-7 lead. The first game ended when a hit by Palisade’s Shae Arnett landed long.

Sailors coach Wendy Hall said the team was more focused in the second game.

“I think we just made fewer mistakes in the second game,” Hall said. “We kept our serves in bounds and did a good job passing the ball. It was nice to see us struggle in the first game and then work hard to adjust and clean it up in the second game.”

After Lizzie Sack’s hit fell into the net to put Palisade up 1-0 in the second game, Steamboat reeled off the next 13 points. Sack had two kills during the run, as did Carter. Finch served six of the points.

Palisade picked up its only other point when Carter hit one long. But a kill by Griffing returned serve to the Sailors, and a kill by Carter made it 14-2. The match ended when Hellman’s return fell long for Palisade.

Carter finished the match with 10 kills. Sack had six kills. Rebecca Gray led the Sailors with 21 assists, while Abby Fritz was six of six passing and Griffing was eight of nine passing.

The win moves the third-ranked Sailors to 10-1 on the season and 5-0 in the Western Slope League. They will face Moffat County at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Steamboat before traveling to Glenwood Springs Thursday for a showdown with the fifth-ranked and unbeaten Demons.

The match with Glenwood will wrap up the first round of Western Slope League play before teams face each other for a second time.

Hall said staying unbeaten is important.

“I think what we are trying to do is win the league and the only way to make sure you do that is to stay unbeaten,” she said. “We need to win them one at a time, but we want to win them all.”

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