Aspen volleyball off to a fast start after sweeping tournament |

Aspen volleyball off to a fast start after sweeping tournament

Nate Peterson

The theme of the Aspen volleyball team’s 2005 season can be summarized this way: New team, new coach, new attitude.On Saturday at home, the revamped varsity squad tripled its win total from last season, sweeping all three of its matches at its own tournament to improve 3-1 overall.While Saturday’s dominating wins against 2A Vail Mountain School, 2A Hayden and the Cedaredge junior varsity team might come as a shock to some, the 10 players on this year’s varsity team were not at all surprised.The Skiers expect to win every match this year, junior captain Brittany Zanin said. The reasoning is simple.”It’s not the same team. That was a different team last year,” Zanin said.Literally. While the Skiers varsity struggled to one win last season, the core group of seven juniors that make up this year’s team were going undefeated at the junior varsity level.And, while Zanin admitted that winning JV games doesn’t automatically translate into victories at the varsity level, there is something to be said for the kind of success she and her teammates have had together. That success dates all the way back to group’s first year of club volleyball together in seventh grade.”We all want to make it to districts and states this year with the solid team we have,” she said. “While it is a jump up to the varsity level, a lot of the varsity teams that we’ll be playing will be some of the same girls that we played on JV last year. So, I’m hoping that carries over.”There is also something to be said for the success the group has had under coach Sarah Benson, who takes over varsity coaching duties this fall while head coach Matt Bergdahl finishes a graduate degree at CSU in Fort Collins. Bergdahl is expected to return next fall. In the meantime, Benson feels confident that she can turn things around at Aspen with the same team she’s been coaching for three years.”This is a great opportunity for one year,” she said. “It’s a great group of girls. Almost every single one of the girls, except for one, I’ve had at some point, which is perfect because you get to know how they play and their personalities. I’m very excited.”The three seniors who return from last year’s varsity team are Elise Fornell, Elyse Boelens and Connie Luu. Fornell, a defensive specialist, said the role of the seniors this fall will be to acclimate the younger players to varsity play while attempting to fit in seamlessly with a group that already has well-established chemistry.Last season, Fornell said, the varsity team had good individual talent, but struggled to play together as a team.”In practice sometimes, we’d look really good, but in games we would just fall apart,” she said. “We’re hoping that this team isn’t anything like that.”The Skiers didn’t fall apart in their first match to 5A Grand Junction Central on Thursday, but they did get beaten, 3-1, immediately negating the possibility of another undefeated season for the juniors. The loss was encouraging, however. Against a 5A team with an 11-9 record last fall, the Skiers stole the first game, 26-24, then battled in the three losses.Benson said that while her team doesn’t possess much height, it will try to make up for the disadvantage at the net by playing scrappy defense and using quick attacks.Also, if there is one thing Benson has learned about her players during the lastthree seasons, it’s that the group possesses a keen ability to learn from its mistakes. The seven juniors who fill out the roster include Megan Raczak, Page Cottrell, Robin Landis, Ellen Stark, Haley Ortmann and Kyla Walter.”We do have things to work on,” Benson said. “We’re not a tall team, so defense keeps us in games. The tall people we do have, we use them when we need to block. … We’re hoping our quickness helps us. It’s just basic things, like not being lazy and being quick on everything that are going to help us win. The quicker you are, the better off you are when you’re not real tall.”Added Zanin, “This season should be exciting. We’re going to go out and go as hard as we did last year. Going into JV games last year, a lot of teams were worried to play us. Hopefully, we can get back to that.”Nate Peterson can be reached at

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