Steamboat volleyball seeks revenge on Eagle Valley with all new lineup
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Following a successful season in 2018, the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team graduated eight seniors, and during her 33 years with the Sailors, head coach Wendy Hall has seen a complete roster turnaround like this many times.
“In a way, it’s kind of fun because part of what I love is putting the puzzle together,” she said. “There’s so many open-ended questions right now within that puzzle. I love that creative part of coaching very much.
“In a way it’s kind of refreshing to have that. In another way, you have to be patient and know it’s going to take some time for kids to get used to playing beside new kids, maybe in new positions,” Hall explained.
There are just three Sailors returning to the varsity squad in 2019: Lauren Ehrlich, Sarah Hannaway and Annmarie Hackworthy.
“Last year was probably one of the best years we’ve had since we’ve been in high school, I’d say,” said Hannaway. “We all played club together the year before and got really close, then played on varsity together, so it was really fun. This year, we’ll be figuring it out since, a lot of these girls, we’ve never played with on a team before.”
Hannaway and Hackworthy are aiming to be starting outside hitters, while Ehrlich is fighting for the libero spot. Of the three, Ehrlich was the only one in the starting lineup.
Ehrlich said as a libero, she expects to be a leader, since the position is on the floor throughout the rotation.
“I think the atmosphere just needs to stay constant,” Ehrlich said. “It’s really easy in volleyball to slip and five points can go by and the game can just be over. So (I’ll be) keeping everybody focused and making sure everybody’s minds are on the court.”
With an entirely new starting lineup, the Sailors will look to return to regionals, where they went 1-1 last fall, topping off a 15-9 season.
The team lost five seniors standing at 5-foot-10 or taller, a size advantage they won’t make up this year. Without a large net presence, the Sailors likely won’t be a strong blocking team, instead relying on solid defense and an efficient offense.
Aug. 29: at Moffat County, 6 p.m. Sept. 5-7: at Glenwood Springs Sept. 14: at Silver Creek Sept. 19: at Eagle Valley, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21: at Glenwood Springs, 1 p.m. Sept. 27: vs. Palisade, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 28: vs. Rifle, 1 p.m. Oct. 1: at Battle Mountain, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 3: vs. Summit, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 10: Eagle Valley, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 12: vs. Glenwood Springs, 1 p.m. Oct. 18: at Palisade, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 19: at Rifle, 1 p.m. Oct. 22: vs. Battle Mountain, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 24: at Summit, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1: at Grand Junction, 6:30 p.m.
“With the personnel I have, we’re gonna have to be really good from the service line,” Hall said. “We’re gonna have to be really good in backcourt defense. We don’t have a real big front line, and I think we’re gonna have to be really good at keeping the ball in play and outlasting to win points.”
The team might take awhile to develop some chemistry, though, as they haven’t played together in a competitive setting. The fact they were all brought up through the Sailor system will certainly help.
“All of our seniors are pretty close, so having that base to go off of will help us because we lost so many seniors and because we’re all so close,” Hackworthy said. “That’s really helped us when we were all on (junior varsity together).”
Still haunting the Sailors from last fall are two tough losses to Eagle Valley. The Sailors went 9-3 in the Western Slope, two of those losses by way of the Devils. The first coming, 3-2, in the final set at home Sept. 13. A few weeks later, on Oct. 4, the girls in red traveled to Eagle Valley and lost 3-1 in Gypsum.
“I think our mentality towards Eagle has to change to get by them. I really thought we had the better team last year,” Hall said. “For some reason, we have a mental block against them. They, on the flip side, know they’ve kind of owned us for a few years. I think they have a huge mental edge over us.”
The Sailors haven’t defeated the Devils since Oct. 22, 2015, when Steamboat won 3-2 in Gypsum. In order to snap the five-game losing streak, Steamboat has to change something before visiting Eagle Valley on Thursday, Sept. 19. The Devils will come to town Thursday, Oct. 10.
Ahead of the pivotal matches, Steamboat will open its season at Moffat County on Thursday, Aug. 29.
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