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By Bobby Gutierrez
MEEKER | Veteran high school volleyball coach Greg Cravens finished his first season coaching in Meeker with the 2A Colorado State Volleyball Championship semifinals. He said he was thankful for the experience and is excited about the future of the program.
“The weekend was a great experience for this team, between all the great play on the court and all the dancing off the court, we had a great time,” coach Cravens said. “Our hopes and expectations are high for next year. We tied for third this year and most of our team coming back is a great position to be in but a lot of hard work is going to have to take place in the next year.”
Meeker entered the state tournament for the first time in four years as district and regional champions, then won their pool in the Denver Coliseum by defeating No. 2 seeded Swink, then No. 8 Simla, to advance to the semifinals against Lyons.
Meeker defeated Swink in three games (25-14, 25-16 and 25-19) but needed five games and a memorable, come-from-behind victory to beat Simla to stay alive in the tournament.
“The girls played well against Swink, we served very well, kept them on their heels and out of their system most of the time but the Simla match was one to remember for a long time,” coach Cravens said. “This was a battle of two teams, that knew what was at stake and didn’t want to lose. The girls asked me what I knew about Simla, I told them, ‘I knew the coach well and steal everything she does, so their team is probably just like ours.’”
Meeker lost the first game to the Cubs, 20-25, then won the second (25-23) and third (25-18) games, before losing the fourth 21-25 to force a deciding fifth game.
“The fifth set was unlike anything I have been a part of,” Cravens, who has coached a state championship team, a runner-up team and now six other teams in the Big Show, said. “I have great comeback stories but this one will go on top now. We were down 2-10, in a set that only goes to 15. To win it isn’t supposed to happen but the girls just weren’t going to lose. When Simla’s coach called her first timeout and I looked at our girls, I knew they were determined to win it. It just goes to show you the strength of a team, when they want to get something done and they believe, it happens. I’m so proud of them.”
The win against Simla advanced the Cowboys to the semifinal game against Lyons, a team which gave Meeker one of its three losses during the regular season. Lyons won the match in three games: 25-7, 27-25 and 25-21.
“The Lyons match was a very hard one, their team was very determined and we couldn’t do anything to get them out of system,” coach Cravens said. “They kept us on our heels. The girls fought hard the second and third sets but we ran into a very good team.”
Lyons went on to win the state championship by defeating Yuma in the championship.
“Looking back, not a bad season,” he said. “We lost to a very good Rangely team twice and the state champions twice, all and all, not too bad.”
The Cowboys will graduate seniors Brittney Adams, Natalie Simonsen and Avery Watt and Cravens said he will miss their leadership.
“Brittney and Natalie were great seniors for us, they both played an important role on our team and I was very blessed to have them,” he Cravens said. “Britt was ready whenever I needed her and she saved us at districts with her play. Nat was a leader and kept us all together, she understands the importance of team and she made sure we stayed together.”
“I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do without Avery. I couldn’t have asked for a better role model and leader for my first year. She played incredible on the court and off the court, I could always count on Avery to let me know how to get some where and the good places to eat. Her dad has trained her well.”
With high hopes and expectations for Meeker’s volleyball program, coach Cravens is already thinking about next year.
“Across the state, there are plenty of teams of good juniors and will be strong next year,” coach Cravens said. “We will need to be better conditioned and physically stronger to do well next season.”
Order photos from the 2017 Cowboys Volleyball season at https://rioblancoheraldtimes.smugmug.com/