Basalt “dream team” ready to face tall task in volleyball regionals vs. top seed

Basalt volleyball coach David Chadbourne closes out a timeout against Aspen on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, inside the AHS gymnasium. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

As the lowest seed in the 24-team regional bracket, the Basalt High School volleyball team faces a tall task if it wants to make the eight-team Class 3A state tournament.

The good thing is, the Longhorns don’t seem to be afraid of heights.

“If we are going to win state, we have to take them down some time. So might as well get it out of the way, right away,” Basalt coach David Chadbourne said of facing No. 1 Eaton in their first match. “What’s cool about these ladies is that when they get a team with talent like that, they tend to step up. And I think they have more fun playing teams that push them than they do teams that they might get an easier win.”

Nothing is likely to come easy this weekend. Basalt is the No. 24 seed and will play out of Region 1 with No. 1 Eaton and No. 16 The Vanguard School. The winner of the three-team region, hosted by Eaton on Saturday, advances to the May 12 and 13 state tournament in Colorado Springs. The other two teams head home for the season.

Eaton is a perfect 14-0 this spring and is one of the state’s true powerhouse programs; its nine state championships put it in a tie for fourth place in Colorado history. The Fightin’ Reds last won state in 2017.

“We’ve got a tough weekend ahead of us,” Chadbourne said. “They are a clean team and they got some powerhouse outside hitters. We run a little quicker offense and that, with the combination of we play pretty good defense as well, should serve us well this weekend and that’s what we are hoping for. If we can keep our game clean and keep it together and stay in system, we plan to compete with them and we plan to take them out.”

Basalt junior Lexi Lowe, left, sets a pass as senior Riley Dolan looks on against Aspen on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, inside the AHS gymnasium. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

The Vanguard School is 10-3 overall and also hopes to play spoiler. The Coursers enter regional competition on a two-game losing streak, having lost to Lamar and Manitou Springs, both strong teams also competing this weekend.

Basalt will play The Vanguard School immediately after its 10 a.m. match on Saturday with Eaton, while Eaton and The Vanguard School will play the third and final match of the day.

Basalt (10-4) won its first league title since 2007 this season, winning the Class 3A Western Slope League crown thanks to a head-to-head win over Delta, which also finished WSL play at 8-1. The Panthers made regional play as the No. 23 seed, one spot ahead of Basalt. Delta (11-3) was No. 25 in the final RPI rankings, while Basalt was No. 33.

Only two seasons ago, the Longhorns finished dead last in the 10-team WSL.

“This is the group I’ve been working with for quite some time,” said Chadbourne, who is in his fourth season as the team’s head coach but had coached JV before that. “For me, it’s kind of my dream team to put together. They have talent across the board and it’s been really fun for me to see them get outside of their heads and just play really good, fun, clean volleyball. It’s been really nice.”

Basalt senior Gabby Narby returns the ball against Aspen on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, inside the AHS gymnasium. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

Basalt’s resurgence this season had a lot to do with its five seniors: Karina Bauer, Gracie Reardon, Riley Dolan, Sydney Picard and Gabby Narby. At least a couple of those players are likely to earn all-league recognition, although those names won’t be released until the season is over.

Chadbourne did let slip he has been named the league’s coach of the year, but wanted to make sure the players are recognized for that honor more than he is.

“It’s a great thing, but the reality of that is I just have a really good team of volleyball players. So while I was given the award, they actually did all the work. It was very nice, but at the same time I give all the credit back to them. They are the reason why it happened,” Chadbourne said. “Everything came together this year. Kind of the perfect storm. It was fun to see them have great success. They worked hard for it.”