Basalt spikers eye state | AspenTimes.com

Basalt spikers eye state

Nate Peterson

Shelby Lee/The Aspen Times

There’s no way to disguise it.Coming into the 2006 season, Basalt volleyball is loaded. Head coach Dave Drozd knows it. His players know it. Four of the players from last year’s 12-9 team that finished third in the 3A Western Slope last season return as seniors this year. Three of them earned first-team all-league honors, and the fourth an honorable mention.But that’s not all. Two juniors and two sophomores who earned valuable varsity experience last season are also back, including junior middle blocker Dayne Toney, an honorable-mention selection in 2005.

After the third-place finish last year, Basalt has set its sights on a league title and a run at state. There’s just one problem: A number of other teams in league return the same kind of depth and have the same goal.Hotchkiss and Roaring Fork – last year’s league champ and runner-up – are in the group, as well as Aspen and Gunnison.After two tight regular-season losses, the Skiers knocked off the Longhorns at districts last year – and return virtually the same team in 2006. Gunnison, which finished fourth in the 3A Slope last fall, returns five seniors.”I think there’s a lot of good teams this year, and the competition is going to be great,” Drozd said. “I’m just excited about it. Our work ethic is a lot better from last year, and that’s what’s going to drive us to get to that next level.”Last year, Basalt hit its stride in the middle of the season, only to lose steam in the playoffs when it mattered most. Drozd doesn’t expect the same drop-off this season.

“It was like, ‘Wow, we’re doing really well, we don’t know how to handle it,'” Drozd said. “This year, we know what we want, and we know how we’re going to go about getting it.””What I’m hoping for,” senior setter Elisabeth Nemiac said “is that we don’t peak too early this year, and that we can be at our strongest at the end of the season and just keep getting stronger.”Nemiac, the team’s assist leader last fall, will be the glue for the Longhorns offense. When she missed a few games last year because of injuries, Basalt had its share of communication breakdowns. The Longhorns, as a whole, aren’t very tall, which means they’ll have to be smart on offense and scrappy on defense, Drozd said. A good server who can see the floor is crucial. Strong defense and mistake-free serving will also be key.”Because of our lack of height, it’s about knowing where to put the ball, not always trying to kill the ball,” Drozd said. “I think they’re starting to understand what kind of team we’re going to have to be to be really good. At the high school level, when you’re a short team, you’ve got to play outstanding defense if you want to win. We’re going to win by great defense and great, tough serving.”Nemiac will be dishing out assists to senior middle blocker Bailey Holmes and outside hitter Sam Christensen, both first-team all-league selections in 2005. Holmes earned a spot on the team for a second straight season.

Senior right-side hitter Alyssa Leslie, an honorable-mention selection, will also get her fair share of balls.Nemiac said all four seniors have been playing together since the seventh grade. This season represents the last shot: It’s either make a run at state, or wonder for the rest of their lives what might have been.”I think we’ve all realized that we aren’t the only strong team in this league,” she said. “I don’t think over-confidence will be an issue. … This is our last shot. Who doesn’t want to do amazing our last season?”Junior Alia Munger, and sophomores Heather Nemiac and Shelby Holmes will also see time. All three logged valuable minutes last year.”Expectations are really high for me and really high for the girls,” Drozd said. “To get to state, that’s our goal, flat out. I asked them all at the beginning of the season, ‘What do you guys want?’ Because I’m not going to be here if we don’t want to reach the highest possible point. They all want the same thing.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com