As Western Slope League champions, the Lady Eagles were guaranteed a spot in this week's regional volleyball tournament, regardless of where they placed at the District 5 tournament.
They would rather they had earned it with wins.
But, after opening 3-0 wins over eighth-seeded Soroco and No. 5 West Grand in pool play, Paonia lost the final three matches to place fourth.
Only the top three teams advance to this week's regional tournament.
"A lot of teams don't get that second chance," said head coach Krista Carsten, whose only loss prior to the tournament was against Olathe. "Fortunately, our level of play throughout the season carries us through to regionals."
Paonia entered the district tournament at West Grand High School with a 9-0 league record and seeded first. No. 4 Meeker (17-7 overall, 7-3 Western Slope League) was also coming off of 3-0 district wins over West Grand and Soroco, and won the first set against Paonia, 25-22. They went on to defeat the Lady Eagles in a best of five series (25-22, 18-25, 25-23, 17-25, 16-14).
"We were not as on top of our game defensively," said Carsten. It wasn't that they were tired, since they were still jumping and blocking well. "But we just didn't put the ball away."
Vail Mountain had gone undefeated on Friday, and kept up its momentum Saturday morning, defeating Paonia in four sets. Vail Mountain is a big team that is known for its big hits. Paonia's blockers had a hard time shutting down their outside hitters, and were caught off guard by their setter, whose second-touch taps over the net cost them valuable points.
The Lady Gore Rangers libero was excellent at receiving serves, said Carsten, who didn't play a libero this season. Paonia had averaged almost 14 aces per game going into the tournament, but scored only one against Vail Mountain.
Paonia ended the tournament with a two-set loss to Rangely (13-8, 8-2). With a 20-4 record, they remain in the top 10 in Colorado Preps rankings, but will have to work hard this week if they plan to earn a trip to state, said Carsten. Paonia and Meeker, which was 4-2 to place second at West Grand, will travel to Vail Mountain this Friday for the regional tournament.
The winners of each of the eight regional tournaments move on, and four more teams will be selected according to the MaxPreps Freeman ranking system.
It won't be an easy week of practice, said Carsten. "The focus still needs to be on our side of the net."