Sailors defeat Bulldogs in three

Mills has 13 kills

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Steamboat Springs -- Nearly every face is new, but the expectations that come with wearing a Steamboat Springs volleyball warm-up never change.

So instead of making excuses about being young and inexperienced and injured, the Sailors have embraced the pressure that comes with another volleyball season, winning the first league game of the fall against Moffat County, 25-14, 25-18, 25-15, on Tuesday night.

Steamboat improved to 2-0 with the win, while Moffat County dropped to 0-2 on the season.

"Even if teams know we don't have a lot of seniors they want to beat us," junior setter Tara King said.

The thing is, the Sailors want to win a little bit more, as senior Stacy Cavanagh. She was in a knee brace Tuesday night and continues to recover from a knee injury, and senior Kristyn Bradbury, who was used in a defensive role only Tuesday, recovers from a broken foot.

Both are the only returning starters from last year's team.

Moffat County understands what it's like to have a young, inexperienced team with injuries. The Bulldogs are fighting the same problems. The difference Tuesday was the unforced errors and the ability to recover from them. Both teams made their fair share of mistakes, but the teams responded differently. Steamboat strung together runs to eliminate the few leads Moffat County had or to pull away altogether in all three games.

Moffat County coach Becky Howlett said she continues to emphasize the importance of mental toughness with her squad. Steamboat coach Wendy Hall, on the other hand, has a team full of players who seem already to possess that personality trait.

"Our whole focus is getting them mentally stronger," Howlett said. "They have all the skills to compete."

Because of injuries, the Bulldogs had one returning starter on the court. The rest played junior varsity last year. But the Sailors can top that: Two of their players didn't even play junior varsity last year. They played freshman ball. One of those players was sophomore Katie Mills.

At this time last year, Mills dreamed of just sitting on the varsity bench to maybe letter as a sophomore. On Tuesday, the 6-foot-3 outside hitter led all players with 13 kills as she continues to fill the offensive void left by the absence of Cavanagh and Bradbury.

"I really like the pressure," Mills said.

Senior Tina Roberts added six kills. Junior Hestia Chase had two kills. Juniors Missy Chotvacs and King and sophomore Erin Gleason each had one kill.

Mills already has accepted a scholarship offer to attend UCLA, where former Steamboat player Katie Carter plays college volleyball. Mills, however, said she is more interested in talking about the Sailors than herself during the season.

Hall appreciates the sophomore's attitude as well as her ability. After Steamboat easily won Game 1, Moffat County responded in the second, keeping the game even through 18.

Then the Sailors pulled away behind the service game of King and Mills and a couple of kills from Mills and Roberts to win 25-18. Steamboat won the third game easily.

"We need everyone to play with confidence and the only way to gain confidence is to play a lot," Hall said.

Steamboat aced Moffat County 18 times on Tuesday, including six ace serves from Mills. Chotvacs, Chase, King and senior Danielle Tredway each had three aces.

Leading Moffat County offensively was junior Mari Katherine Raftopoulos with three kills. Junior Becky White and senior Kaylee Perry each had two kills. Senior Brandie Telfer added one.

Telfer led the Bulldogs with five digs. Junior Brenna Conci added three digs.

Steamboat's next match is against Rifle at 6 p.m. Sept. 16 in Steamboat.

Steamboat's junior varsity and freshmen won, as well Tuesday. Steamboat's junior varsity defeated Moffat County, 25-11, 25-15. The Steamboat freshmen won, 25-21, 27-25.

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