The silver lining for Brittany Zanin comes in the form of a senior-heavy roster. The downside is the Aspen High School volleyball coach doesn’t have much in the way of varsity experience to work with in her first season in charge.
“It’s a funny team this year in that they are not young necessarily — I have six seniors — just a majority of them haven’t actually seen varsity playing time yet,” Zanin said. “There has been a lot of emphasis the past three years I’ve been here on the girls we just lost, so these girls I don’t think have had a chance to really develop on their own and build their own team. I’m interested to see how that goes.”
The Skiers open their season Thursday at home against Roaring Fork. Opening serve is set for 6:30 p.m., with the “C” team (4:30) and junior varsity team (5:30) both scheduled to play prior.
This will be Zanin’s first game as the team’s head coach, having previously served as an assistant the past two seasons. She is a 2007 AHS graduate who has played for just about every notable volleyball coach in the Roaring Fork Valley, including Matt Bergdahl, who was the AHS coach her senior season.
Bergdahl stepped away from the Aspen program for a few years following the 2007 season but returned as its head coach in 2013. He again stepped down after the 2016 season to make way for Bailey Holmes, Aspen’s head coach the past two seasons, with Zanin helping.
“She’s been coaching here for three years so all of the seniors know her really well and all the underclassmen are getting to know her this year,” AHS senior Kat Goralka said of Zanin taking over for Holmes. “I feel like it’s pretty similar, but she definitely has her own ways to go about things, which is exciting. It’s definitely been a comfortable transition.”
The 2018 season was the best for AHS in about two decades, with the team going 18-7 overall. The Skiers beat Salida in their regional tournament before losing to Valley, 3-0. Aspen is trying to replace seven seniors from that group, notably outside hitter Mary Williams and setter Gaia Murphy. Goralka, along with junior Zuleika Hanson, are the lone returners with any significant varsity experience.
“We’ve been working really hard, so I’ve seen a lot of improvement throughout all my teammates. They are working really hard and they are inspired to play,” said Zuleika Hanson, whose sister, Jasmin Hanson, was among the seniors to graduate last year. Jasmin is playing volleyball for NCAA Division III Randolph-Macon College in Virginia this fall. “We are confident enough to see how it goes and try our best and have fun with it.”
Regarding expectations this season, there are simply too many unknowns. But considering 2018 Western Slope League champion Coal Ridge also lost a deep senior class, there is reason to believe AHS can hang with the top of the WSL. Cedaredge, last year’s league runner-up, only lost a single senior so should be the favorite coming in. As of this week’s CHSAANow.com rankings, only Cedaredge (No. 10) is ranked. Coal Ridge is effectively 14th this week.
“I think we are going to be a contender up there again. Will it happen right out of the gate? I don’t know,” Zanin said. “It’s going to be a different pace and a different year, but what I’ve seen to now I’m excited about.”
BASALT VOLLEYBALL SWEPT BY MOFFAT
The Basalt High School volleyball team hosted Moffat County on Tuesday, losing 3-0 in its home opener. Set scores were 25-12, 25-23 and 27-25. Now 1-4 overall, the Longhorns will next host Olathe on Saturday.
BASALT SOFTBALL STAYS PERFECT, SWEEPS EAGLE VALLEY
The Basalt High School softball team improved to 8-0 on the season by sweeping host Eagle Valley on Tuesday. Scores were 13-7 and 14-9. The Longhorns are scheduled to play Conifer on Saturday.
The Aspen High School softball team also played Tuesday, falling 18-2 and 25-3 at Gunnison to drop to 0-8 on the season.