Tradition-rich Grand Valley High School embraces class leap |

Tradition-rich Grand Valley High School embraces class leap

Jeff Caspersen
and Baron Zahuranec
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kara K. Pearson Post Independent file

PARACHUTE, Colorado ” Topping last season’s magical run through the Class 2A state tournament won’t be easy for head coach Mike Johnson and his Grand Valley Cardinals.

Led by senior point guard Kendall Babler, the Cards took Pueblo by storm, beating Holyoke and previously undefeated Rocky Ford before suffering a 48-47 loss to Wray in the state championship.

Though Babler’s gone and Grand Valley’s now a 3A school, Johnson doesn’t see any reason why his team won’t be able to do a little damage in 2008-09.

“We’ve got a pretty good tradition in the past,” said Johnson, in his 10th year coaching the Cardinal girls. “We’ve been to state four out of the last five years. We won league four of the last five. We expect the league to be tougher, moving up, but I think any team with tradition expects to step on the floor and compete.”

Helping achieve that end are a bevy of key returners.

Back from an all-league season is junior guard Erin Vanderpool, who scored 44 points in the Cardinals’ three state tournament games back in March and averaged more than nine points a game for the season.

Senior post Kasi Jensen and junior post Tiffany Tittes are also back.

“Those are the most experienced kids,” Johnson said. “We’re pretty young after that. The JV team was very good last year and I’ve got a really good junior and sophomore class. I think we’ll be alright.”

As for Johnson, he’s closer to being alright after an infection stemming from a Sept. 12 appendectomy had him in and out of the hospital like a yo-yo all fall.

“I’m a lot better,” he said. “I’m getting there.”

Johnson returned to teaching full-time at Grand Valley High School this week after working a part-time schedule in recent weeks.

He also saw a huge turnout at a Nov. 20 benefit dinner that the Parachute community put together to help cover Johnson’s medical bills.

“It was pretty humbling,” said Johnson, eager to get the basketball season going.

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Roaring Fork’s girls basketball team may be light on experience, but there’s certainly plenty of spunk to go around.

“We’re looking good,” said first-year head coach Nancy Zeigel, who is taking over the Rams after seven years in the program as an assistant. “There’s a lot of energy and enthusiasm. We have a young group.”

That young group contains just one returning senior in Maria Flores. She’ll be joined by a crop of talented underclassmen in need of seasoning.

“As they build their confidence at the varsity level, they’ll come on quick,” Zeigel said.

Under Kirk Cheney and with eight seniors on the roster last season, the Rams went 13-7. Zeigel thinks this season’s youngsters gleaned enough from their older program mates to carry on the winning torch.

Some of those coming up from the junior varsity ranks to make an impact include juniors Shea Courtney, Alli Zeigel, Brooke Reynolds and Adrianna Romero and sophomore Joey Clingan.

“It’s a talented, eager group,” Coach Zeigel said. “I think we can surprise a lot of people.”

PEACH VALLEY, Colorado ” Coal Ridge’s girls basketball team is led by second-year coach Rick Schmitz, who has 30 years of experience coaching girls basketball.

With five returning seniors this year, senior leadership will come into play.

“I think we have a chance to field a pretty respectable team if things go well,” Schmitz said.

The Titan offense may be a little flat this season, so the team may have to rely on other areas of play to come out of games on the winning end.

“Our defense is going to have to carry us through,” Schmitz said. “We’ll create offense through good defense. If we work hard at that end of the floor and rebound well, we should be alright. I just hope the offense continues to improve as the season progresses.”

The Titans will try to push the ball on offense, but they can only do that if they defend and rebound well.

“I’ve always stressed the fundamentals,” he said. “Hopefully, with time, that will improve things on the offensive end.”

On defense, they plan to mix it up, depending on their opponent, Schmitz said.

Last season, the Titans were 12-11 overall and 7-7 in the 3A Western Slope League. Their season ended with a loss to Roosevelt in the first round of the playoffs.

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