Skiers spikers feel sting
This week should have been the time for the Aspen volleyball team to celebrate a successful season. The time for all-league voters to reward the Skiers (16-7 overall, 10-4 3A Western Slope) for a year in which they narrowly missed out on a regional berth. Instead, Aspen head coach Matt Bergdahl was reduced Thursday to bemoaning what he calls a flawed voting system.Seniors Megan Raczak and Kyla Walter were Aspen’s lone representatives on the league’s first team. Seniors Robin Landis and Brittany Zanin were honorable-mention selections. The omissions, however, are just as noticeable, Bergdahl said. “The system doesn’t take into account the individual and that’s unfortunate,” Bergdahl said. “You get X number of players depending on where you finish in the league. There’s no variation, and that’s sad.””I’m not taking anything away from Basalt. When you win the league, you should reap the benefits.”
Aspen’s third-place finish in the conference afforded the Skiers two spots on both the first-team and honorable-mention lists. The voting system, in use for the past few years, was originally designed to make things easier, Bergdahl said. In reality, however, the guidelines hamstrung Bergdahl. As a result, Bergdahl faced the difficult decision of lobbying for a select few players during the all-league meeting. And thus, productive, worthy players like Haley Ortmann and Page Cottrell, among others, were absent from both lists.”How do I seperate my fourth from my fifth player, or even my first from my second?” Bergdahl said. “They’re all pretty even. Unfortunately this means there are teams that have a first-team all conference player that isn’t as good as one I get on honorable mention.”Even teams behind us who are barely at 50 percent get a minimum of one first-team choice. Some of their first-teamers would not have started on our team in my book.”Aspen’s first-team selections distinguished themselves all year. While Walter shined offensively in the middle of the Skiers attack, her much-improved defense was difficult for other squads to contend with, Bergdahl said. Walter, in just her first full year playing both offense and defense, was the equalizer against the other team’s front line. She contested the majority of her opponents’ shots at the net.
She would often shut down the opposing team’s most dynamic players, Bergdahl said.”You would not have know she wasn’t always an all-around player from watching her play this year,” he added. “She answered the bell and exceeded my expectations.”Raczak was undersized, but she showcased the courage and sheer athleticism needed to make an impact in the middle. She made things look easy on the back row, Bergdahl said. “She was everywhere,” he said. “I don’t think she got enough credit for her defensive play over the top.”Zanin, too, was an undersized outside hitter, but the senior stepped up when her team needed her most, Bergdahl said.
Voters may have overlooked Landis because of her quiet disposition, but Bergdahl said he believed she had the best hands in the league. Nobody in the league could execute a perfect set from every spot on the floor like her.”In the front row, she had a threat with her dump that other teams don’t have,” Bergdahl said. “I’d say she’s even above Liz [Nemiec of Basalt]. She has the raw ability and the talent. She was the rock for our team.”Differentiating among players who made the team and those who didn’t was hardly scientific or fair, Bergdahl said. He was, however, able to temper his frustration and appreciate what was a successful season.”We came up short, but we’ve got to be happy,” Bergdahl said. “We never beat Basalt, but we always took them to the limit. We lost to Gunnison at districts by only a couple points. It was that close.”Haley would carry the load one game, and then Brittany would the next game. It’s tough to separate those two, and that’s a tough position. I can’t justify this system because it’s flawed.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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This decision is part of a game plan to focus on giant slalom and slalom in the early part of season. Shiffrin will likely also pass on a speed stop in Val d’Isere from Dec. 18-20.