This time around there will be no surprises.
At least that is what the Moffat County High School volleyball team hopes is the case Friday against Delta.
"I wasn't prepared for Delta to be as good as they were," coach Becky Howlett said. "If I wasn't prepared, then the girls probably weren't either."
The Panthers came to Craig during homecoming week and beat the Bulldogs in four games, 25-14, 25-15, 23-25, 15-25.
"We played terrible," Bulldog senior Brandie Telfer said. "Maybe more than terrible."
The next day, Moffat County lost to Palisade in the same number of games. Palisade is undefeated in the Western Slope League, while Delta is 3-9.
"That weekend shows our inconsistencies," Howlett said. "I think this time we'll be a little more prepared."
If the Bulldogs want to continue their season into the district tournament, they'll need to be more prepared.
The winner of the 5:30 p.m. match in Delta will clinch the sixth and final spot that was allotted to the WSL for the postseason.
"It's a good kind of pressure (to win)," Telfer said. "We won't be surprised by them like we were the first time."
Howlett complimented Delta's improvement from last year but said she thought her Bulldogs were more at the level of the top tier of the league than at Delta's level.
"When we play like we can, we play with the top five of the league," she said. "We've shown that we're better than being in the bottom three."
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs won a match against Class 1A Vail Mountain, 27-25, 25-23, 25-17. The nonconference match was a welcome break from what would have been a full week of practice before the Delta match.
"Four practices in a row can be grueling," Telfer said. "Not that games aren't grueling, but it's better to get to play."
Moffat County will finish the regular season against Palisade on Saturday. They'll know before the first serve whether the match will be their last.
A win Friday moves the Bulldogs one ahead of Delta. If the Panthers upset Steamboat Springs on Saturday they could tie with Moffat, but the Bulldogs' better regular season record will keep them ahead of the Panthers.
If Delta wins, there will be no way Moffat County can get the sixth spot, even if they upset Palisade the next day.
Despite the uncertainty of a postseason appearance, Howlett talked to her team about the district tournament Wednesday at practice and told them about what teams they would face.
"The district tournament is nice because we play teams we don't know about," senior Brenna Conci said. "We just go out there and play."
Last year, the Bulldogs were one of two teams from the WSL to qualify from the district tournament to play in the regional. They surpassed expectations after finishing finished fourth in the regular season of league play.
"We've got a team that can play good," Howlett said. "I've seen them surface a couple of times, and I think we could see it again this week and then in the district."
David Pressgrove can be reached at 824-7031 or email@example.com.