Area prep volleyball teams ready to open season
It will take some time for area volleyball fans to get accustomed to their teams this year.
Three new head coaches have taken over the reins at Basalt, Grand Valley and Roaring Fork High Schools.
Billy Miller steps in as the new Longhorns coach. Ralee Boyd, last year’s freshman coach at Grand Valley, replaces Lorile Loesch, who retired from coaching. Karen Crownhart has taken command at Roaring Fork.
Newcomers are also part of the scene at Glenwood Springs, but in a different capacity. After losing eight seniors to graduation, this year’s Demon roster is dominated by underclassmen.
Of all the area volleyball teams, Rifle is the lone school that boasts stability on its roster. The Bears return four starters from the 2001 squad.
It would be hard for the Demons to repeat last year’s state tournament finish – qualifying for pool play at the 4A State Tournament – but a return to the big show in 2002 is not out of the question.
“We want to be that team,” said second-year coach Michelle Guillot. “We want to go to state, and the girls want it bad.”
The road back to Denver starts Friday when Glenwood hosts the annual Demon Invitational Tournament.
The Demons are part of a 12-team field that includes Class 5A Grand Junction Central and Fruita Monument along with Denver schools Faith Christian and Lutheran.
All-Conference hitter Amber Sutherland, a 5-foot, 11-inch, junior, gives the Demons a major presence in front of the net.
Supporting her in the front line will be returning letterman Alicia Hays, a 5-9 senior, along with juniors Kelly Hauskins and Alexandra Rabb.
After spending most of last year as a part-time player, junior Celeste Cashel has taken over the duties as the Demons’ main setter.
Other players looking to fill key roles this year include seniors Shelbi Amichaux and Cassie Carlson, who is returning to the court after a year’s absence, plus juniors Tessie Tracy and Bridget Roseman.
Two freshmen, Leanne Lawson and Leah Hinkey give the Demons added depth.
Former Southern California high school standout Billy Miller has come in and revamped the style of play and the attitude at Basalt.
“The team is responding well to the new techniques we’re teaching them and the girls are enjoying it. So it’s good,” Miller said of the Longhorns preseason practices.
Part of Basalt’s new look is Miller’s approach to earning a spot on the varsity roster.
“They used to have the older girls on the varsity. Now we have the best players at that level.”
Miller formed his roster after putting 40-plus players through a six-day workout.
The ‘Horns are down in experience, but they do have height and athletic ability in juniors Lauren Redfern, Robin Childs and Rochelle Moebius. Jessica Barnes, a sophomore, is the team’s setter.
Basalt opens the season on Saturday at the Grand Valley Tournament in Parachute.
With four returning starters on its roster, the Bears are looking to improve in 2002.
“I’m really excited about this year,” said second-year coach Victoria DI Guglielmo, talking about the team’s skills.
“We have a lot of depth, so everyone is fighting for a spot on the team. And because of that, we’re getting better every day.”
Three of the four letterman play on the front line. The trio includes outside hitter Krista Wagstrom, who earned a all-conference selection as a sophomore.
Also tabbed for a starting role are seniors Caitlin Wagner and Stacie Kagle and Duana Davis.
Additional players who could see considerable playing time this season are juniors A.J. Connelly, Afton Neal and Lauren Pleva, along with sophomore Montanah Matthies.
Instead of tournament play, Rifle’s 2002 opener is single match at home on Thursday against Grand Junction.
The enthusiasm of new coach Karen Crownhart has rubbed off on the rest of the Rams.
“The team has a goal of making this year better,” Crownhart said of the team’s revived attitude.
“This is a good team that has a lot of club experience. It’s been really fun. I’m fired up and I’m excited.”
And it won’t take long to see how well Roaring Fork’s collective enthusiasm translates to the court.
The Rams have seven seniors on the roster and three are returning starters.
Brie Bath, Jessie Rochel and Lindsey Cheney are all hitters. Setting for the group is letterman Carly Velasquez, a sophomore.
Other upperclassmen include seniors Kristie Davis, Natalie Bassett, Michelle French and Alyson Romanus.
Additional help comes from Tarn Udall and Samantha Burns, both juniors, and freshman Sarah Armstrong.
Roaring Fork will also participate at the Demon Invitational. They start pool play on Friday at 4:30 p.m. against West Grand of Kremmling.
Seniors Jenni Hirneisen and Lori Jacobs lead the Cardinals in to a new gym and a new league in 2002.
Rangely and Meeker, formerly Class 3A schools, have dropped a classification and join Grand Valley in the newly formed nine-team 2A Western Slope League.
“It’s nice to get some variety,” coach Ralee Boyd said of the league’s new members. “I saw them at the state tournament last year, and we’ll hold our own against them.”
Backing up the two seniors will be underclassmen Stacia Hamilton, Haley Perrin and Holly Steltzlen, all juniors, along with two players up from the JV team in sophomores Jessica Cielatka and Wynette Jackson.
The Cardinals begin the year in their new home by hosting a eight-team tournament on Saturday.
Action gets under way with Grand Valley facing Nucla at 9 a.m.
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