Spectators who paid to see two volleyball teams play at Moffat County High School Tuesday got a two-for-one deal. It looked like four different teams were on the court during Steamboat's 20-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 win.
In the first game, Moffat County was a mentally focused and physically ready team. The Sailors, looking as if they needed some more time to warm up, made 13 unforced errors.
"We looked stiff, and Moffat came out ready," Steamboat coach Wendy Hall said. "We were too uptight and couldn't hit the ball in."
In the final three games, the teams appeared somewhat different.
"We started to drop off mentally," Moffat County senior Brandie Telfer said. "Look at the score. We had fewer points each game, so it meant we didn't hang on."
The Bulldogs got the gym roaring during a back-and-forth first match. There were eight ties and seven lead changes before the Bulldogs broke it open at 23-19.
"The girls were ready to play," Bulldog coach Becky Howlett said. "There was passion and mental intensity."
Things didn't get easier for the Sailors in the second game, as they switched sides to be in front of a rowdy Moffat County student section.
"We couldn't hear anything in the second game, so it would have been easy to give up," Hall said. "I think our ability to dig ourselves out in the second could have been the turning point."
The second game was close through the first 22 points. It was tied at 11 when the Sailors scored four straight on serve, and they never trailed for the rest of the game. In fact, the Sailors never trailed the rest of the match, leading from start to finish in the third and fourth games.
"We got comfortable with the first-game win and let down," Howlett said.
With up and down performances, the Sailors have been riding a wave all season. They appear to be riding the crest of a better wave right now. The win against the Bulldogs was their third straight and fourth of their last five.
"The difference tonight was that we didn't get down ourselves," Hall said. "It would have been easy to get down in a hostile environment. We definitely had to play better this time around to beat Moffat County."
Hall pointed to the fewer errors after the first game as the turning point.
"(Sophomore) Katie (Mills) had seven errors in the first game and only five the rest of the match," she said.
"That girl right there," she said pointing to senior Kristlyn Bradbury, "she also had a big turnaround."
The MVP for Hall was sophomore Erin Gleason, who had six kills.
"I don't think she's ever had that many," Hall said. "She had the match of the year."
Despite the loss, Telfer had some solace that in her four years as a player, the Bulldogs had never won a game against their rivals.
"At least I don't ever remember taking one," she said. "If we did, it was when I was a freshman."
Howlett called the first-game victory bittersweet.
"It would have been nice to carry that over to a couple more," she said.
The Sailors improved to 5-3 in the Western Slope League and will be at Rifle on Thursday. Moffat County, 2-6 in WSL play, travels to Glenwood Springs on Thursday.
David Pressgrove can be reached at 970-824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.