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RANGELY I Because of a league rule that protects the league champion by giving them an automatic bid into the regional tournament, the lady Panthers volleyball team ended its season last weekend at the district tournament in Kremmling.
The top three teams, or the top two teams and the league champions, advance to the state qualifying regional tournament. Although Rangely beat the league champs and No. 1 seed Paonia Eagles and finished third in the district tournament, they did not qualify for regionals.
The league’s eight teams were divided into two pools, with Rangely, Hotchkiss, Hayden and Vail Mountain School in one pool, Meeker, Paonia, West Grand and Soroco in the other. The top two teams from Friday’s pool play advance to have the second place team of one pool play the first place team of the other and vice versa.
Rangely, the district’s No. 3 seed, defeated Hotchkiss in three games in the first round of pool play, then won in three against Hayden before losing to the Vail Mountain School Gore Rangers, the No. 2 seed of the tournament. Rangely won the first game against the Gore Rangers 25-23, then lost the next two 16-25 and 18-25 before coming back to with the fourth game 25-16 to force a deciding fifth game, which the lady Panthers lost 15-17.
In the other pool, Meeker, the No. 4 seed, defeated the league champion Eagles in five games to win its pool and match the two Rio Blanco County teams against each other in the final four.
The lady Panthers came out strong and won the first two games against Meeker 25-17 and 25-16 but lost the next two 18-25 and 15-25, requiring a fifth game, which went into overtime with the Panthers losing 15-17.
“We played well at times during the tournament and then just average, which unfortunately was not enough to get us to the next round,” head coach Jimmie Mergelman said.
Rangely then beat Paonia, in a meaningless game, as the Eagles were guaranteed to advance, even if they didn’t win a single match, although they did win two in pool play but it didn’t matter.
“I don’t agree with the league protection rule, I’ve had this same situation happen to me twice out of four years I have coached volleyball,” Mergelman said. “I believe the district tournament is the start of post season and everyone starts with the same record going into the tournament.”
The lady Panthers finished the 13-8 and it was the final tournament for seniors Leslie Hernandez, Shelby Neiberger, Brittany Babineaux, Kelsey Prosser, Quincey Thacker and Myriah Moreno.