Sailors plan to rebuild, hope to repeat
Steamboat Springs — High school athletics programs lose their stars as regularly as aspen trees lose their leaves, so there’s nothing inherently unique about that storyline for the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team as it prepares to start the 2016 season.
The team begins play at 6:30 p.m. Thursday evening at home against Moffat County, and the Sailors, one of the strongest programs in their league in recent seasons, hope to prove they’re still just that.
The team isn’t replacing a few leaves this year, however. It’s replacing the forest, and how well the current crop of Sailors respond to that challenge will define what kind of a season it will be.
“It’s as much turnover as we’ve ever had,” Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said.
The team lost its top three players and six of its top seven in terms of kills — 86 percent of its total in that category. It lost six of the top seven from the service line, six of the top seven in blocks, its four top players in digs and every player who even registered an assist.
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Not only were those seniors good — driving the program to its first league championship in 13 years — they were many, 10 deep, and most had been soaking up varsity minutes since they were sophomores. That league championship season only came after falling short in the years previous, and in the end, those scars helped lead to the championship tears.
It all left precious few minutes for the underclassmen who now assume leading roles for the program. They weren’t on the court to learn how to adjust to varsity tempo, how to block a varsity kill or how to bounce back from a heartbreaking point, set or season.
“We’re not sure how much that’s going to hurt us yet,” Hall said.
One of the few who did crack last year’s lineup was Micah Feeley, or “the one” missing from that list of “six of the seven” stat categories.
Feeley, now a junior, earned her minutes in the middle a year ago, and she now will be one of the program’s outside hitters as the Sailors take on the league as reigning champs.
“Instead of being a follow, I want to be one of those people the rest of my team can look up to,” Feeley said.
Feeley and Hall said there are others ready for the spotlight.
Raya Duryea, a senior, missed the past two seasons with shoulder injuries but will be on the court this fall. Sammy Spencer is the team’s other senior. Wyleigh Myers, Este Wilkinson and Hannah McCreight will get minutes from the junior class, as will sophomores Anna Allsberry, who saw limited varsity minutes last year, and Abi Berlet, who will get a crack at setting for the varsity team.
“We can be as good as we want to be,” Feeley said. “I think we can be amazing.”
Feeley said hitting and serving can be the team’s strengths, and that if this team plays as well as it can, she envisions back-to-back league title runs.
Even she admits it could take some time to realize that potential, but she and the Sailors do remember plenty of things about last year’s seniors, including the fact that they too were all young and inexperienced once.
“The cool thing is when you have a group of seniors like that, who not only had a lot of success but who were wonderful leaders, they set the bar high,” Hall said. “These girls realize they have big shoes to fill, but they also want to fill them.”
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