Season-ending win satisfies Hayden | CraigDailyPress.com

Season-ending win satisfies Hayden

Tigers, Rams both out at district volleyball tournament

Joel Reichenberger

Hayden sophomore Darian Murphy gets up for a block against Soroco's Laramie Parker on Friday. Both Hayden and Soroco failed in their bids to advance in this weekend's district volleyball tournament, but the Tigers beat the Rams in pool play, their first win in the rivalry in three tries this season.

— It came as no surprise that Paonia, undefeated and the No. 3 ranked team in the state, advanced Friday in the Class 2A District 5 volleyball tournament in Oak Creek, beating Hayden and Soroco to emerge unscratched from the three-team pool.

The Eagles will play again Saturday against the winners of the day's other two pools, Meeker and Cedaredge, to determine the district champ.

Hayden made the most of its season finale, however, bouncing back from the Paonia drubbing to beat Soroco.

After losing six of seven sets against their cross-country rivals this season, the Tigers put their best match of the season together in their very last chance, winning the round-robin match against the Rams to close out the campaign on the highest of notes.

"It felt like a state championship," Hayden coach Dayna Hunter said. "Everything I could see from the beginning of the season, they finally got some confidence and it came together. They believed in themselves and it was amazing."

Hayden beat Soroco on Friday, 25-21, 25-20, 25-17. The team wasn't nearly as close against Paonia, which beat Hayden, 25-13, 25-9, 25-15.

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That loss — which for all practice purposes eliminated the Tigers — was the least of the team's concerns after the Soroco match.

The day featured nine teams battling in three pods, the winner of each playing again Saturday in Oak Creek. For Hayden, with five wins entering the tournament, advancing was never realistic. Instead, the day seemed as if it would be a farewell to senior Jordan Temple, the backbone of the Hayden program for four years.

It was that. After the final point against Soroco, teammates and coaches surrounded Temple and encased her with hugs.

The Tigers said the win was more than that, however, and that three strong sets against their rival means as much to the program going forward as it does to this year's team.

"It was no single player," sophomore Grace Wilkie said. "That was what we've been striving for the entire season. We trusted each other and played as a team, and if we continue that on to next season, no one will beat us.

"OK, maybe a couple of losses, but we'll be a tough team to beat."

For the Rams, who also lost to Paonia, 25-11, 25-19, 25-9, the day was a disappointing setback after a season that has been anything but. After a rotten two-win year in 2013, Soroco finished in the middle of its division this season, racking up more wins than it had in the previous two years combined.

It secured its first winning season since 2011.

The season had highlights, and so did the day. Jessica Rossi was powerful in her final day of volleyball for the Rams, and Lucy Carlson laid down wicked swings at the net playing in the middle. Kalie Constine and Laramie Parker had big hits on the outside.

Soroco strung together good stretches against Paonia and even led, going up 18-17 late in the second game.

Still, it wasn't at all what the Rams were hoping for.

"We stayed more calm, cool and collected against Paonia than we did Hayden, and some of that was the rivalry," Soroco coach Jeannie Jo Logan said. "You look at the big picture and you just see these losses, but I told the girls they can't let today define the season. They brought back a trophy to the school, the first one in 14 years. They made it to districts without having to play a pigtail. They got an outstanding sportsmanship comment from a head ref last weekend that's being written up for the state.

"Those are the things that define their seasons, not these last two games."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9