Steamboat middles use big swings to defeat Demons

Tori Bilbrey, a senior on the Steamboat Springs High School volleyball team, rises above the Demons block during the senior game against Glenwood Springs on Thursday night.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

Glenwood Springs was so threatened by Steamboat Springs High School junior middle Tya Drennan, that they put three girls on the block.

Drennan had been earning the Sailors points all night to keep them ahead, so senior setter Dani Weber kept feeding the 6-foot-1 middle. Seeing the larger-than-normal block, Drennan popped the ball over the Demons rather than swinging. Glenwood returned the easy ball, and Weber set up Drennan again. This time, she gave it her all and swung through the fingers in front of her. The ball glanced off a Demon’s hand and hit the floor. Steamboat won the set 26-24 to take a 2-1 lead Thursday night.

Steamboat used the momentum from the third set to win 3-1 over Glenwood.

Senior Tori Bilbrey was huge at the net in the third as well.

Going in, the teams were tied at one set each, with Steamboat winning the first and Glenwood the second. The set was tied at three, then 8, then 16. Then the Sailors gained some ground. Bilbrey slammed the ball for a kill and a 17-16 lead. A few minutes later, she earned a block to make it 21-19.

“Our middles, that tandem, in the last two weeks, have ramped up their games,” said head coach Wendy Hall. “Especially Tori. I saw something switch in her, and I saw it in practice first. Then it started carrying over into the match. The more that happens with her, the higher her confidence has gotten. I’ve always known she’s had the ability, the quickness, the length. And she’s got a good little jump too.”

Hall has seen nothing but confidence in Drennan as well.

“She just gets stronger and wiser,” Hall said. “She’s learning the game. She’s a bright girl. You add that volleyball IQ to your physical abilities and she’s really improving quickly right now. Having that in the middle, that’s a force.”

Steamboat senior Lauren Fullerton followed Bilbrey’s block with an ace to bring the lead to 22-19 and Glenwood called a timeout. Steamboat, of course, went on to win.

“We’ve been working a lot on our offense,” said Glenwood Springs head coach Lynn Goluba. “We’re just not super strong at the net and clearly the middles here are tough. We knew that so we had to come in and put a pretty tough defense up in the middle, and we started to do that.”

For the first time of the night, there was early separation in the teams. The Sailors pulled ahead in the fourth set, 10-7, then pushed that to 17-11.

With Drennan serving on the back line, Bilbrey got to shine up front again. She called to Weber and jumped. The ball hit the hardwood between two Demons, bumping the Sailors lead to 20-14. Glenwood Springs called a timeout. The Steamboat fans started cheering, “Warm up the bus.”

“Our setter, Dani, she’s been giving us amazing sets and we’ve been getting good passes from (seniors) Lauren (Fullerton) and Ella (Royer),” Bilbrey. “It’s a team thing.”

Putting a very large, red and white bow on the evening, Drennan earned the final point and Steamboat won 25-18.

The seven seniors honored that night were able to run down the tunnel of fans with a win in the books.

“It’s definitely an exciting feeling. It’s indescribable,” Bilbrey said. “Tonight was kind of sad, but it was nice having the support of everyone.”

Steamboat Springs 3, Glenwood Springs 1

SS 25 17 26 25 – 3

GS 19 25 24 18 – 1

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