Steamboat volleyball utilizes strong hitting, smart defense in victory over Battle Mountain
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The scramble for the top spots in the Western Slope League could go many different ways, and with Steamboat Springs’ upset win over Palisade on Saturday, it got even messier.
Palisade (8-3,4-1) held on to the top spot despite the loss, but the rivaled matchup between second-place Battle Mountain (7-1, 4-1) and third-place Steamboat Springs (7-6, 3-1) made the battle for the top spots that much more interesting on Tuesday.
But Steamboat delivered another upset victory behind a steady defensive game 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23.
Aug. 23: vs. Moffat County, W 25-11, 25-10, 25-16 Aug. 31 at Alamosa, L 21-25, 25-21, 15-17. Aug. 31 at Peak to Peak, W 25-15, 25-8 Sept. 1 at Coal Ridge, L 25-18, 18-25, 11-15 Sept. 1 at Littleton, W 25-16, 25-20 Sept. 8: at Classical Academy, L 25-19, 18-25, 12-15 Sept. 8: Coronado, L 27-29, 22-25 Sept. 8: Mullen High School, L 22-25, 20-25 Sept. 8: Mountain View, W 20-25, 25-15, 25-12 Sept. 13: vs. Eagle Valley, L 18-25, 27-25, 25-14, 20-25, 13-15 Sept. 15: vs. Glenwood Springs, 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21: at Palisade, W 19-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-8 Sept. 22: at Rifle, W 25-13, 25-12, 25-20 Sept. 25: vs. Battle Mountain, W 25-16, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23. Sept. 27: at Summit W 27-29, 25-13, 22-25, 25-21, 15-13 Oct. 4: at Eagle Valley L 18-25, 25-18, 12-25, 24-26 Oct. 6: at Glenwood Springs W 25-23, 25-22, 25-22 Oct. 12: vs. Palisade L 21-25, 27-29, 25-20, 25-23, 14-16 Oct. 13: vs. Rifle, W 25-17, 25-20, 25-8 Oct. 16: at Battle Mountain, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 18: vs. Summit, 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20: vs. Grand Junction, 6:30 p.m.
People wonder why volleyball is such a loud game on the court, but combine two power hitting teams like Battle Mountain and Steamboat Springs and you’ll see why. There’s nothing more invigorating than a slammed kill hitting the floor.
Sailors senior outside hitter Anna Allsberry’s got it, utilizing the gaps in the sharp angle just behind the 10-foot line, something that comes naturally when you’re 6-foot-2-inch and a vertical. Senior middle blocker Avery Harrington had it at the end of the third set, taking a step up the middle before running to the right side for a slide-kill to end the set.
On the other side of the net, Huskies senior outside hitter Lillian Benway could deliver a menacing line-kill from the front or back row. Benway had 100 kills on a 40.2 percent efficiency leading into the match, while Allsberry had 101 on a 39 percent efficiency. Both teams knew who their targets were.
“I just had a lot of fire and in my head,” Allsberry said. “I was just so excited, and I just wanted to keep our momentum from our Palisade game and not let anyone take that away.”
And there’s nothing more discouraging than when hits that seemed destined to kill are picked up by the defense.
“I think we really defensively played the same as we did against Palisade,” Steamboat Springs head coach Wendy Hall said. “They have strong outside hitting, so we definitely dedicated a little bit in that direction, moving our block over and trying to favor that side a little bit. I think our blockers are getting really good at making reads.”
That’s what the Sailors had over the Huskies in the first set, lining up blocks and picking up hits, forcing the Huskies to make errors. The second set worked in the Huskies’ favor, as they stayed patient waiting for the Sailors to make the defensive errors off long rallies.
Ideally, a power-hitting team should train a scrappy defense, but that’s not always the case. And it’s hard to transition to offense when the errors on defense pile up. But Steamboat Springs libero Katelyn Kline slid across the floor, picking up balls that sent an exciting roar of disbelief through the crowd.
“Katelyn, our libero, is just yelling all the time, and she’s on every ball,” senior setter Abi Berlet said. “She really hustles, and that’s the initiative we needed for our defense. Now everyone is picking up on that and I feel like my defense has gotten better as well.”
A third-set victory fueled an early lead for the Sailors in the fourth set, but the Huskies stayed close behind, rallying back from a 20-14 deficit to turn the score in their favor, 21-20.
Allsberry knocked a powerful kill to tie it up. Kline grabbed a hard-hit by the Huskies’ senior middle blocker Eleanor Sheahan to set up senior setter Abi Berlet’s perfect set for senior Maddie Heydon’s kill.
“I think my timing was just on with my hits, and I was able to snap my wrist and hit it down,” Heydon said. “I went to a camp over the summer at Regis and they kind of just enlightened me.”
Allsberry’s hit shanked off of senior libero Audrey Wright’s arm, and despite another two points by the Huskies, Harrington would have the final say in kill up the middle.
“We were just struggling to be sharp in our system, we weren’t being terrible,” Battle Mountain head coach Jason Fitzgerald said. “We just weren’t playing well enough against 2- or 3-point deficits, and when you’re playing a team like Steamboat that is disciplined and executes as well as they do, you just can’t make that many unforced errors.”
With the win, the Sailors deliver the Huskies their second loss in league play. But the second half of the season approaches, and there’s a lot of volleyball left to play.
“In the past, we had this vision, but we could never act,” Berlet said. “But now it’s our last year.”
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