The following is a recap of the state volleyball championship matches, as the 2017 CHSAA season concluded on Saturday at the Denver Coliseum. Castle View, Lewis-Palmer, Eaton, Lyons and Kit Carson all came away with titles.
Castle View 3, Cherry Creek 2
The Sabercats dropped their first match of the tournament to Rock Canyon on Friday, but Castle View fought its way into the semifinals via tiebreaker, with eventual wins over Fossil Ridge and then Cherry Creek in the championship.
“Last night, we weren’t super optimistic we were going to be playing today — there was a real possibility our season was over,” Castle View coach Scott Dowis said. “I gave us a 30 percent chance that Coronado would beat Rock Canyon. As soon as that happened to get us into the tiebreaker, it was a resurrection — our team felt like we were alive again.”
It marked the first team state championship in any sport for Castle View, and it was sealed with a 15-13 win in the fifth set after the No. 12 Bruins (26-3, Centennial champions) stormed back from a 2-0 deficit.
“We rotated hitter Kate (Menz) around to the left front, and we changed our lineup from the first four sets to give her an opportunity to get a lot more swings,” Dowis said. “Luckily, it was just enough to win it.”
And as senior setter Lauren Lowry, sophomore libero Leanne Lowry and the No. 3 Sabercats (24-5) closed in on school history in that final set, Dowis called a timeout to reiterate the family feeling that had gotten them to that point.
“I called a timeout at 14 to 11, and I knew then it was going to be over,” Dowis said. “I told the girls, ‘I’m not calling a timeout for anything strategic — I just wanted to let you know I love you and we’re going to get one more point before they get four, and we’re going to be state champions.’”
Lewis-Palmer 3, Valor Christian 0
Against the behemoth that is nationally-ranked Lewis-Palmer, No. 2 Valor Christian (23-6, Jeffco champions) came out without fear and played the Rangers tough all match.
But eventually, the No. 1 Rangers (29-0, Pikes Peak champions) — who with their title have reeled off 58 straight victories — outlasted the Eagles in a marathon, 35-33 third set to seal the program’s seventh state title.
“We never gave up on anything — no matter how many balls they put down, no matter what kind of runs they got on, we just kept fighting back,” first-year Lewis-Palmer coach Wade Baxter said. “That’s what we’ve done all year.”
Junior outside hitter Trinity Jackson, junior setter McKenna Sciacca and sophomore libero Gianna Bartalo all turned in notable performances to cap the Rangers’ second straight undefeated campaign — and one that wasn’t without occasional doses of humility to keep the team on track.
“Being undefeated is awesome, but it also carries the burden of maybe, sometimes, the idea creeping into their heads that they can’t be beaten,” Baxter said. “We dropped some sets along the way that we shouldn’t have dropped, and every time that happened, we came back really strong.
“Dropping that first set to Niwot in the semifinals was the kick in the pants we needed to make sure we played as hard as we could to win these last two matches.”
Eaton 3, Lutheran 0
The Reds cemented their volleyball dominance once again, cruising to a straight sets win over No. 2 Lutheran (26-4, Metro champions) for the program’s fifth consecutive state title.
No. 1 Eaton (27-2, Patriot champions) only lost to 4A champion Lewis-Palmer this season, and junior outside hitter Mackenzie Harris, senior middle blocker Alexis Lamoreaux and sophomore setter Chelsey Lockey enabled the Reds to stomp through the tournament without dropping a single set.
As to what allows Eaton to continually restock the athletic cupboard? Coach Gwen Forster said it all comes down to instilling program pride in her players.
“We have the same drive every year,” Forster said. “We talk about what it means to be an Eaton Red — the importance of it, and how it’s a small community and everyone supports and buys into the program.”
And the Reds, like Lewis-Palmer, also kept their ultimate goal in perspective throughout a season in which the team often steamrolled its opponents.
“Everybody’s out to get you, and they want to be the team that upsets you,” Forster said. “Anything can happen — it’s a game of errors — and our girls remembered that throughout the season and throughout this tournament.”
Lyons 3, Yuma 1
It was the fourth straight state championship appearance for Yuma, but it was Lyons who came away with the ultimate prize thanks to a strategic approach by the Lions’ coaching staff.
“We put together a lineup that was comprehensive to what they were going to bring,” third-year Lyons coach Mason Johnson said. “We prepped in the practice room for teams we knew we would see in pool play, and we put some different wrinkles in our game plan.”
The upset win over No. 1 Yuma (25-2, Lower Platte champions) marked the fourth state title for the No. 6 Lions (24-5, Mile High champions) but first since 1986, with senior outside hitter Ixchel Leeuwenburgh and senior libero Sarah Stevelinck both playing crucial roles.
And it was a championship run the Lions had been building toward for some time, as Lyons has now won 20 matches or more in each campaign under Johnson.
“We’ve wanted this all three seasons I’ve been coaching here,” Johnson said. “It took a lot of work — a lot of revamping and relearning how to play as a team. There were some tough years that plagued us a ways back, and honestly the biggest testament to this team are the unsung heroes behind the scenes, like junior varsity coach (Paula) Maguire, who has been an integral part of this program.”
Kit Carson 3, Fleming 0
The Wildcats captured their second state title and first since 2006, setting a state record by winning all 78 sets played this season — and, in the process, they avenged a straight-sets loss to Fleming in the 2016 title match.
“That fueled this season a lot,” 22nd-year Kit Carson coach Penny Isenbart said. “Our success doesn’t come from a situation like this (at state) — it comes from our practices and the freshman class that came in and made those practices tough.”
No. 1 Kit Carson (28-0, High Plains champions) only graduated one starter from last year’s title push, and were led by senior outside hitter Paige Johnson and senior outside hitter Micayla Isenbart as they topped coach Doug Kamery and No. 2 Fleming (29-2, District 4 champions).