Craig Middle School seventh-grade A-team’s final match at the district tournament:
Team 1st 2nd 3rd Final
Craig 20 20 15 3
Rangely 13 18 13 0
Leaps and bounds.
That’s how coach Michelle Henderson described the progress made by the Craig Middle School seventh-grade volleyball team between the first day of practice and the final game of the season.
And, for half her players, their leaps took them all the way to the top.
The seventh-grade A-team won the district tournament Saturday, edging out contenders from Rangely, Steamboat Springs and Meeker.
In the game’s final moments, at 14-13, Alexi Goodnow was playing as the team’s server, already ahead two sets against second-seeded Rangely. A strong serve bobbled off the Rangely players’ arms and back into the net, giving the Bulldogs the victory.
Goodnow said the response was immediate as she and her teammates jumped in the air simultaneously as the ball hit the floor, beginning a rendition of Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”
Goodnow added that assistant coach Kristina Dunckley practically tackled her out of excitement.
“They’ve really improved this season,” Dunckley said. “It shows how much they’ve been paying attention.”
The victory caps an 11-2 season for the A-team, with their only losses coming from early season games against Rangely and Meeker.
Goodnow said she was most excited by how much had changed in her first year playing volleyball.
“It’s amazing how we came from not being very good to winning districts,” Goodnow said. “It was kind of frustrating because at first, we just couldn’t do it, but we kept improving.”
Although she and her teammates are new to the sport, they have gotten used to teaming up with each other on a different kind of court — basketball — playing hoops together since elementary school.
Team member Emily White attributed their successful season in a different environment to Henderson’s coaching.
“A lot of coaches don’t even say anything and they just sit there,” White said. “She’s always positive and she doesn’t yell at us, and she tells us what we need to do better.”
This is Henderson’s first season coaching volleyball, as well.
“I was really nervous, at first, since volleyball is a new sport for all of them,” she said. “It probably helped that they all knew each other and how they performed on a court.”
Henderson provided the entire seventh-grade team with a pizza party Wednesday afternoon as a final get-together before turning in their uniforms.
Before leaving, each girl was required to write one of their strengths and one thing they needed to improve for next season on an index card.
Henderson said, above all else, she’d like to see a progression in service.
“My goal for next year is to get them all to serve overhand because they’ll have to do that if they want to play in high school,” she said.