Returning to state tournament with experience
FARMER’S KORNER – The Summit High School volleyball team will do everything it can to approach this weekend’s Class 4A State Tournament like just another bunch of games.
But when the lights of the Denver Coliseum come up Friday morning, and the media is there, and the crowd files in, and the best players in Colorado are walking around in uniform … well, it can make a girl’s head spin.
“Some of the girls might be a little shocked with all the people and how big the area is,” said senior Aurora Ebert-Santos. “But I think we have a good enough team and a mature enough team that we’ll be able to wing it really well.”
Ebert-Santos and Ashley Reavis are the only remaining members of the team that made it to state two years ago. They were wide-eyed sophomores then; this weekend, they’ll be counted on to keep the Tigers relaxed and playing their best volleyball.
“We’re trying to just do what we’ve done all year and not think of state as any different,” Ebert-Santos said. “As long as we stay calm and help each other out; if we are relaxed and we joke around on the court, it’ll work out.”
This is also the second trip for head coach Tim Andrulaitis, who was an assistant under Jodi Adkins two years ago.
The Tigers say they made it through regionals playing mostly below their capabilities. They know only their best will do at state, where they are the No. 6 seed of eight teams.
“It’s the basics,” Andrulaitis said. “Our serves killed us, and our passing wasn’t all that good.”
Practices this week have been extra grueling as Andrulaitis has searched for a way to reduce the serving and passing errors that cropped up at regionals. For every missed serve at practice, the girls are running. For every bad pass, there are consequences.
The Tigers hope this fabricated pressure at practice helps them handle situations this weekend when their season is on the line.
“I know we have the talent to beat any team in the state,” Andrulaitis said. “We just have to relax and play our game.”
Summit took No. 1 seed Brighton to three games last weekend at regionals. That experience, and the fact that the Tigers felt they didn’t play well, gives the team some extra swagger for state, despite their six seed.
Actually, the Tigers are quite happy to be seeded sixth. For two months, they have had to guard against overlooking teams. Now, maybe, other teams will overlook them.
“A lot of these teams have been to state a lot,” Ebert-Santos said. “Their goal is to be state champion, so they’re gonna look at us as just a little bump in the road. But I’m pretty sure we’re gonna prove to be much more than that.”
The Tigers (24-3) will stay overnight in Denver today and take the court at approximately 11:45 a.m. Friday against No. 3 Lewis-Palmer (25-2). They play No. 2 Steamboat (26-1) at 2:15 p.m. Pool play continues with No. 7 Windsor (22-5) at 9 a.m. Saturday. The Tigers need to win two of the three matches to advance to the Final Four.
They are focusing on Lewis-Palmer and Windsor as the more winnable games. Lewis-Palmer is tall but may be a step slower than Summit, according to Andrulaitis. The Tigers got a good look at Windsor when they lost to them Oct. 26 at districts. Despite the two-game defeat, the Wizards don’t scare Summit.
One thing that might, however, is Stephanie Von Normann’s sprained knee. The junior blocker hurt it in practice Monday. The Tigers hope she can play, but they are preparing to go without her.
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