Coach Cristy Simpson, center, celebrates with her Craig Middle School seventh-grade volleyball A-team players Saturday. The players from left, are Josey King, Mattie Jo Duzik, Tashiena McElhinney, Emma Samuelson, Alex Hamilton, Sidney Ferguson and Christa Bird. The team won the district championship Saturday afternoon, beating Rangely 2-0 in the final round to finish the season 9-3.

Courtesy of Shannon Samuelson

Coach Cristy Simpson, center, celebrates with her Craig Middle School seventh-grade volleyball A-team players Saturday. The players from left, are Josey King, Mattie Jo Duzik, Tashiena McElhinney, Emma Samuelson, Alex Hamilton, Sidney Ferguson and Christa Bird. The team won the district championship Saturday afternoon, beating Rangely 2-0 in the final round to finish the season 9-3.

CMS volleyball teams wrap season with district tourney

Teams record first-, two second-, and fourth-place finishes

Craig Middle School volleyball district tournament results:

Eighth-grade A-team:

Opponent Score

Meeker 2-1L

Steamboat 2-1W

Meeker 2-0W

Rangely 2-0W

Rangely 2-1L

— Tournament record: 3-2, season record 8-6

Tournament rankings:

  1. Rangely
  2. Craig
  3. Meeker
  4. Steamboat Springs

Eighth-grade B-team:

Opponent Score

Steamboat 2-1W

Rangely 2-1L

— Tournament record: 1-1, season record 7-1

Tournament rankings:

  1. Rangely
  2. Craig
  3. Steamboat Springs
  4. Meeker

Seventh-grade A-team:

Opponent Score

Rangely 2-0W

Meeker 2-1W

Rangely 2-0W

— Tournament record: 3-0, season record 9-3

Tournament rankings:

  1. Craig
  2. Rangely
  3. Meeker
  4. Steamboat Springs

Seventh-grade B-team:

Opponent Score

Meeker 2-1L

— Tournament record: 0-1, season record 2-6

Tournament rankings:

  1. Meeker
  2. Steamboat Springs
  3. Rangely
  4. Craig

For the Craig Middle School volleyball program, it would appear seven is indeed the luckiest number.

The seventh-grade A-team won Saturday’s district tournament hosted by CMS, coming out on top against visiting teams from Rangely, Meeker and Steamboat Springs.

Playing in a double elimination format, the Bulldogs won all three brackets of the day, beating Rangely 2-0 in the first round before moving on to a 2-1 victory against Meeker in the second.

CMS faced Rangely once again in the conclusion. The Bulldogs were energized to see the tournament through to the end.

“They were going strong and just getting better and better and better,” coach Cristy Simpson said.

The Bulldogs won the first set, 25-23. The second wasn’t as close, thanks to serving by Mattie Jo Duzik, Josey King, Christa Bird and Alex Hamilton.

The Bulldogs bench erupted in screams when a side out finished the game, 25-18.

“I’m really excited about it because the team played really big, we hustled a lot and really came together as a team today. It was just crazy,” Hamilton said. “It was really nice when we all just started talking and stayed together.”

The lack of communication served as a problem for the seventh-grade B-team, which played in a single-elimination tournament. The seventh-graders placed last after losing, 2-1, to Meeker in the first round.

“They just stopped talking and lost their spark,” Simpson said. “This has been their best game all season, and had they not given up in the end, I think they could have gone all the way.”

The B-team’s third set was especially tough, falling 15-1. Ashley Costello took a ball to the face while diving for a save.

“I think we did pretty well today,” Costello said. “Some of us hadn’t even played volleyball before this season.”

Simpson, in her first year coaching at CMS, said both teams have made strides.

“It’s been amazing taking some of these girls who have never touched a volleyball to winning districts, it’s just awesome,” she said. “All the girls say they’re coming back next year, so we’ll just bring it again and work that much harder.”

A first-year seventh-grade coach taking a team to a championship seems to be a tradition. Last season, Michelle Henderson’s then-seventh-graders also won the district tournament.

But, the eighth-graders fell short of a repeat in their own Saturday games.

Both eighth-grade A- and B-teams lost, 2-1, to Rangely in the final rounds of their tournaments. The B-team trumped Steamboat, 2-1, in the first half of its single elimination play only to lose to Rangely right after, giving them the only loss of their 7-1 season.

The A-team had a much longer day.

“We played our first game at 9 (a.m.), and then we played at 3, 4, 5 and 6 (p.m.), so it was pretty intense,” Henderson said.

The A-team lost, 2-1, to Meeker in the first match of the day.

“I think a lot of people weren’t fully awake yet in the first game,” Morgan Lawton said. “This is what everybody’s been getting ready for, to win at districts, and everybody comes to play.”

The Bulldogs weren’t ready to admit defeat so soon, as evidenced by their next game, a 2-1 skirmish with Steamboat that left the Sailors in fourth place.

The first win of the day prepared the A-team for more of the same, treating Meeker to a 2-0 rout.

It all came down to the match against Rangely, which had yet to lose a match throughout the day. The Panthers fell, 25-17 and 25-16, but due to the double elimination setup, a tiebreaker match was required to declare a champion.

A 25-6 first set seemed to guarantee a Bulldog win, but the stress of so many games perhaps caught up to them, losing 25-20 and 15-7 in the last two sets of the tournament.

“They played hard, came back and beat Steamboat, and we all wanted that after our last game with them, but I think the fatigue hurt them, their legs were tired, arms were tired,” Henderson said.

The tired squad was greeted with a Bulldog-shaped cake provided by team mother Shirley Cromer.

“I’m disappointed that we lost, but I think we did our best. It was hard, but we did good,” Lexi Goodnow said. “We’re so much better than we were at the beginning of the season. We have a lot of great servers and hitters who have improved so much.”

Henderson said seeing her girls take the game to the final moments was all she could ask.

“I saw great volleyball all the way around from all our girls,” she said. “It’ll make them stronger for next year in high school.”

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