Tribe back in Denver searching for a title
Here we go again, another 2A State Volleyball Tournament appearance by the Yuma High School Indians.
The Indians are in the Big Show for the seventh consecutive year, which opens today, November 8, and runs through Saturday, at the Denver Coliseum.
While the state tournament has become part of the regular local sporting landscape, that in no way makes it any less special.
“It gets better every year,” said senior Cody Robinson, who is making her fourth straight trip to the state tournaments with the Indians. “It’s tradition here, and just knowing that we’re keeping that tradition going is satisfying.”
“I feel we all want the same goal,” senior Tania Morales said. “Everyone’s dedicated.”
“Yeah, we want the end game,” senior Taylor Hansen said.
The Indians are 24-1 after sweeping past Crowley County and Peyton for the Region 1 title, last Friday in The Pit. Their first state match is at 2 p.m. against the winner of the morning’s Vail Mountain-Holly contest.
“It’s hard to believe it’s here, we’re down to the end already,” coach Jenny Noble said.
YHS volleyball has reached at least the 2A semifinals for five consecutive years, and have been in the past four state championship matches. The Indians have one state title during that span, in 2015. .
“The added pressure of winning it is there after the last two years,” Robinson said. “All five (seniors) have been there through the second places. We don’t want to experience it for the third year in a row.”
Noble addressed last week that it is not easy winning a state title.
“Every team is trying to rise to the occasion and win it,” Noble said. “Yes, we’ve had lots of success lately, but with that success comes the expectation that the titles are going to just roll in left and right. It doesn’t happen that way.”
Yuma is the top seed in the 12-team state tournament field. The top four seeds — Denver Christian, Meeker and Wiggins joining the Indians in that group — get a first-round bye in the new three-day double-elimination tournament format.
That means the Indians get to go to the Coliseum in the morning and watch eighth-seed Vail Mountain and ninth-seed Holly battle for the right to play Yuma.
“It’s nice to be able to go watch them and see what to expect,” Noble said.
Vail Mountain, 20-5, beat Dawson and Sedgwick County last weekend in Region 8 to advance to state — and also have one of the more unique mascot names, the Gore Rangers.
The Gore Rangers gave third-seed Meeker one of its only two set losses all season, and also managed one set win in a loss to second-seed Denver Christian.
“They’re going to be pretty good,” Noble said of the girls from the Eagle Valley.
Holly, 14-7, beat Union Colony Prep and Colorado Springs School in Region 12 last weekend in Greeley. The Wildcats have won 11 of their past 12 matches.
“Their stats are pretty spread out so it’s hard to say with them,” Noble said, “but they were in the 1A state tournament last year so they have some experience.”
The hope, of course, is for the Indians to get the win no matter which team they play. If so, they will not play again until Friday at 2 p.m. against either fourth-seed Wiggins, fifth-seed Swink or 12th-seed Limon.
Noble said she would like to have the time to get some of the less-experienced players used to the spacious Coliseum floor where five matches take place at once, and depth perception is a whole new challenge.
“It would be nice to get our newbies a chance to soak it in some,” she said. “We have a lot of experience, but we also have a bunch who have not played there, so they have to get acclimated to the bigness.”
The double-elimination “Olympic Crossover” format introduced this year has expanded the state tournament from two days to three.
However, it allows a team that might slip-up to work its way back through the “Contenders Bracket” to reach the semifinals.
“I like knowing you have that second opportunity if you make a mistake,” Noble said. “At least you do control your own fate.”
Plus, the format eliminates the long and uncertain Saturdays of the past few years where ties at the end of pool play led to lengthy playoffs, and pushing the tournament for all classification way behind schedule. The championship matches the past two years have ended around 10 p.m. or later.
This year, the final will be at 6 p.m. as scheduled.
“There’s a little bit more structure, a more definite timeframe,” Noble said. “There will be plenty of time between the semifinals and the championship to go do something if you want, or do nothing at all.”
On the surface, it would seem the top four seeds should be the favorites to advance. Yuma’s recent pedigree has been well documented. Denver Christian lost to the Indians in the semifinals last year. Meeker also was in the semifinals, losing to Lyons. Wiggins nearly knocked off Lyons in a pool play playoff to reach the semifinals.
However, fifth-seed Swink has been a state tournament regular in recent years, as has sixth-seed Del Norte, and defending champion Lyons is back as a dangerous 10th seed.
“You never know, it’s just hard to say,” Noble said. “You look through common opponents to get some indication about some of these teams.
“I like Wiggins being on our side (of the bracket) because they are a known,” Noble added. “But they came on in a big way last year against Lyons last year, so you never know, you just have to play it.
“It’s going to be exciting.”