The road has not been smooth for the Moffat County High School Bulldogs volleyball program.
After two losses the Bulldogs are poised to strike back this week, when they open league play at Rifle on Thursday night.
"We expect every conference match is going to be a challenge," assistant coach Sherman Romney said. "We're going to have to play our best volleyball."
Rifle hasn't won a varsity match in two years, and head coach Geneva Farr said she's not worried about much more than what's happening on their side of the court.
"We have our own issues," Farr said. "I plug away knowing that one year a season is going to be successful for us."
Thursday is the season opener for the Bears and they would like to come out with a win on their home court.
"I think the league is going to be surprised," Farr said.
Farr has three returnees on this year's squad and is optimistic about Rifle's season.
"We have been building this program for three years on offense and defense," Farr said.
Farr said she thinks Katlyn Bintliff and Sandy Samson are going to be her impact players this season.
The Bulldogs have seen outstanding play from juniors Kari Griffin, Amy Dilldine and Sharina Simpson, and both Romney and interim head coach Deb Yoast think the team is starting to meld together.
"I think Kari is as complete a player as we could hope for," Romney said. "She's as good offensively as she is defensively."
Griffin who is in her first year as a varsity player has been impressive, digging balls, acing serves and hitting hard.
"As a team there is still things to work on," Griffin said. "I think we can do good if we keep up the momentum."
Griffin, who is modest about her ability, has stepped into a role she has been training for.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs will be back in action at home, squaring up with Glenwood Springs, a team that many consider to be in a rebuilding year after losing a host of players to graduation. Head coach Scott Nykerk has one returning player to his squad, but is focused on pulling the team together.
"It's still early in the season," Nykerk said. "This is a group that's never played together before, but it's probably the most complete team I've had. There's not one 'star' player, so they have to play together."
Nykerk said his team has the tendency to fall apart because of inexperience.
"There have been lapses," Nykerk said. "They will play well for 10 straight points and then fall apart for 10 points."
What he's aiming for is ball control and consistency, and he thinks Moffat County will be a good challenge because both teams are more defensive-minded.
"I think the ball is going to go back and forth quite a bit," Nykerk said.
Western Slope League play is just getting underway and Nykerk said he believes the league is going to be wide open.
Yoast and Romney think playing the non-conference schedule the Bulldogs played has only helped prepare the team to be a force in the WSL.
Yoast, who was a veteran official before taking over coaching duties for MCHS, said she has only seen Glenwood Springs from an officiating standpoint, but thinks they will be tough.
"To be a top league team, we'll have to have our act together," Yoast said. "We're definitely not going to underestimate any of our opponents."
Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or firstname.lastname@example.org.