Steamboat volleyball players achieve goals set at beginning of season
October 20, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School senior setter Abi Berlet said she doesn’t want to cry, so she holds back tears as her face turns red.
Behind her, the net is taken down and the lights dim. It’s the end of regular season for the Steamboat Springs Sailors, but the beginning of what they hope is a long postseason.
“We played one of our best games, I think,” Berlet said. “All our hitters were on. Our defense was on. Our serving was good. It kind of all came together, and it's been cool because it's been two months of working for this every day.”
The Sailors defeated Grand Junction, a class 5A school, in three straight sets 26-24, 25-17, 25-17 in their last home game of the season. Berlet completed the regular season with 550 assists, the most in the class 4A Western Slope League.
It was a goal from the beginning, since she came in at No. 2 in assists last year after missing a couple of games.
“I credit my hitters. It's only an assist if they get a kill,” Berlet said. “I trust them, they trust me and I know what they like, and it just has taken time to get there.”
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Senior middle blocker Avery Harrington had the goal of topping the league in blocks, and before Saturday’s game, she was No. 2 with 75 total blocks this season. She had six total blocks in Saturday’s matchup, including one solo. She also put on an impressive display in the third set, knocking down five of her six total kills in the match.
“I think that, these past couple of weeks, my timing on my hitting has gotten better,” Harrington said. “As a team, we've improved our connections between players, and I just think we have such a bond we didn't start out with.”
Maybe that was the reason for all the emotion. The team morphed into a family and, from the stands, looked like a well-oiled machine against the competition.
But the bond, she said, was made through those tough losses throughout the regular season. Steamboat Springs fell to Eagle Valley twice and Palisade on homecoming night.
The Sailors finished the year second overall in the Western Slope, but there was a glimmering hope that Eagle Valley might beat Palisade on Saturday to give the Sailors the edge.
“Wendy always tells us that it's in these times, not with the wins but the losses, where it really matters that we stick together.” Harrington said.
That family aspect was something important to senior Sophie Walentiny, who played her first year with Steamboat Springs this year after moving from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“They just took me in,” Walentiny said. “It made it easier joining this team. It's higher level. The teams here are a lot better than they were in Oklahoma, so I've had to step up a little bit.”
That higher level of play was visible during warm-up. Berlet varied her sets, allowing Walentiny to try a high-inside set, and almost everyone tried their hand at a slide out of middle.
A slide is when the middle approaches the net, like she’s going in for a quick set, then takes a step out to the side and hits Berlet’s backset.
Harrington saw a lot of success with the slide in the third set.
“When we're up by a decent amount, we'll do some of that stuff,” Berlet said. “Or, when we played Battle Mountain, there was this girl that had the same, really easy serve every time. So, I would call the stuff we don't normally run.”
Harrington tries not to show emotion when she talks about this last game on this court, but at least she can say that she played one of her best matches.
Head coach Wendy Hall said senior night against Summit was more emotional for her, but she’s not going to act like the season is over.
“Now that I know we're in the playoffs, I'm like, ‘You know we still have two weeks,'” Hall said. “So, I'm not ready to be sad about it ending because it's not ending yet.”