‘Horns spikers hook 3A Western Slope crown
The goal hasn’t changed – and a league trophy won’t be a distraction.So said Basalt volleyball coach Dave Drozd on Sunday one day after his team (18-1, 13-1) locked up the 3A Western Slope title on its home floor with a win over Cedaredge.”Our goal from the beginning has been to make it to state,” Drozd said. “I pretty much didn’t expect us to go 18-1 and dominate the league like we did. But even with the league title, we still have to play well at regionals to get to where we want to go.”Drozd said the league title is both a blessing and a curse. The ‘Horns – ranked fifth in the Rocky Mountain News 3A poll – are guaranteed a spot at the regional tournament regardless of how they finish Saturday at the district tournament in Grand Junction. At the same time, the automatic regional berth gives his team less incentive to play hard in Grand Junction, Drozd said.”It’s good because we can play relaxed and know that we still have another week ahead of us,” Drozd said. “It’s nice not having a whole lot of pressure. At the same time, we want to win districts. My job is to keep the girls focused this week.”Basalt got help from its upvalley rival, Aspen, to win the league title outright. The ‘Horns pulled into a two-way tie with Gunnison atop the league standings after knocking off the Cowboys on Oct. 14. Then the Longhorns downed the Skiers in four games Tuesday before Aspen regrouped to beat Gunnison in five games Friday night.Drozd was actually in the stands at Aspen cheering on the Skiers after his team knocked off Roaring Fork earlier in the evening in Carbondale (25-22, 25-14, 25-17). There’s no doubt which team Drozd would like to advance out of the district tournament alongside his own.”I want Aspen to beat out Gunnison,” he said. “I know a lot of those girls. I’m just happy that they showed they can play with top-level competition. Even though nothing was on the line for Aspen, I’m happy that they did win it.”Actually what was on the line for Aspen was a lower league finish if they upset the Cowboys. Instead of having a logjam atop the league standings, the Skiers win over the Cowboys all but locked up Gunnison’s runner-up finish and pushed the Skiers (14-5, 10-4 3A Western Slope) into third place. The win was crucial for the Skiers’ confidence, however, as evidenced by their dismantling of Olathe in three games (25-11, 25-18, 25-13) Saturday at home. Olathe previously upset the Skiers to knock Aspen out of the league title race.The Skiers’ only loss since then was Tuesday at home when they fell to the Longhorns after taking the first game, 26-24. The win over Gunnison got the Skiers back on track, Aspen coach Matt Bergdahl said. Like Drozd, he believes his team is peaking at the right time, and would also love for both local teams to advance out of the district tournament.”The best of both worlds would be for us playing Basalt in the finals and get the No. 1 seed,” he said. “If we’re going to beat them once this year, this is the time to do it. Either way, I’d love for us both to be in the final, but what you really want is that No. 1 seed. That gives you a much-better chance of making it to state.”Drozd agreed. “I hope that our team doesn’t take it too easily,” he said. “There’s still stuff on the line. It’s tough to beat the same team three times in a row which is why our girls have to focus. … The one thing that worries me is usually when we play a lesser team, we play down sometimes.”The memory of what happened last year at the district tournament should help motivate his players this week, Drozd said. Last year Basalt was upset by the Skiers after sweeping them during the regular season. The win knocked Basalt out of contention for a regional berth following a strong regular season showing.”The biggest thing from last year to this year is that our composure has just been great,” Drozd said. “The girls have accepted their roles and they understand that this year, I’m trying to make adjustments to better the team. Instead of that selfish attitude that showed up sometimes last year, they’ve all played well together and they’re never rattled too much. We’ve had pressure all year, so I think we should be fine handling the pressure now.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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