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RANGELY I If experience is a luxury, then the Lady Panthers’ volleyball team is really sitting pretty.
Out of the 30 girls on the Rangely Senior High volleyball team, which includes the junior varsity and C team, almost half of them are seniors.
All but one of last season’s starters — minus Audrey Hogan, who was named to the all-league team — are back, including senior Marie Morton, who was also all-league, and seniors Dakota Kenney and Rozilynn Thacker, who were honorable mention all-league.
Morton shared most valuable player honors for Rangely last season, with Hogan.
“They’re all back,” Coach Jimmie Mergelman said of her returning players, which includes Victoria Phelan, yet another senior, who sat out last year’s volleyball season because she was recovering from knee surgery.
Rangely finished second in the Western Slope League last season, behind Vail Christian. The Lady Panthers also finished second at the district tournament. However, Vail Mountain won the district tournament, meaning both Vail schools advanced to regionals and Rangely didn’t.
However, with its senior-dominated roster, the Lady Panthers figure to be in the hunt again this season. But Mergelman is taking nothing for granted.
“I’m excited, but I think we still have a lot of work to do,” Mergelman said.
The Lady Panthers traveled to Montrose last Saturday for a scrimmage with Delta, Norwood, Olathe and the host team.
“I thought it went well,” Mergelman said. “We played girls at different positions and tried to figure a few things out.”
The season will start for real this weekend. Rangely will play in a tournament at Glenwood Springs, with play starting on Friday.
Rangely’s junior varsity and C team will also be in action this weekend, playing in a tournament Saturday at Palisade.
As far as the Western Slope League, the Lady Panthers should be considered among the favorites this season, given the number of returning players they have. But they will have plenty of competition for the top spot, with Mergelman mentioning Hayden, Meeker, Vail Christian and West Grand as examples of league teams that will be tough.
“Vail Christian also has everybody coming back,” Mergelman said of last season’s league champs. “And we play them on the 10th (of September), so we’ll find out soon (where they stand).
“Our league is always tough,” Mergelman said. “Volleyball is such a momentum game, you never know. Somebody can come along and get you at any point in time.”