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St. Mary's finally takes over the Tri-Peaks volleyball throne
The St. Mary’s Pirates were finally able to grab the treasure that has eluded them for so many years.
The Pirates won the 3A Tri-Peaks League volleyball championship Saturday by defeating defending league champion Colorado Springs Christian School 25-14, 25-20 in the tournament finals.
“It feels amazing,” said senior Bria Sweeney (six kills and nine digs). “Ever since my freshman year we have lost to CSCS, so this year I really wanted to come in and win.”
Sweeney, Sarah Tentschert, Hanna Stockelman and Laura Broerman have been starting for the experienced-laden Pirates since their freshman year.
St. Mary’s was expected to defeat CSCS (16-7, 9-3) last year in the Tri-Peaks finals before being turned away again by the Lions, who just the year before had seen a six-year reign as 3A state champions end.
Saturday was the Pirates’ (21-1, 10-0) first victory over CSCS in at least six years. Coach Melissa Sweeney couldn’t recall the last time that St. Mary’s had won a league title.
“They’re very confident. They know what it takes,” Sweeney said. “They have been through it for four years. They have the maturity, the leadership. They are a very close bunch of kids, not just the seniors but the whole group.”
Tentschert helped St. Mary’s — which defeated TCA 25-5, 25-10 in the semifinals — build a 7-1 lead in the first game. The senior outside hitter had eight kills and the team never trailed.
“All I can say is we have been waiting for four years to do it,” Tentschert said. “We were more focused than we have probably been all season.”
Senior Emily Whitelaw, starting since her sophomore year, helped the Pirates hold off a furious comeback attempt by the Lions, who entered the tournament without three key contributors, including setter Morgan Evans (hamstring), because of season-ending injuries.
CSCS had reached the finals after rallying past Manitou Springs 20-25, 25-16, 25-14.
“After beating Manitou we had a little bit of momentum going," CSCS coach Jennifer Evans said. "But (St. Mary’s is) a great team and they played well. I am proud of the way my girls came back and fought. I told them if you’re going to go down, at least go down fighting.”
Manitou Springs defeated TCA 25-15, 21-25, 25-17 in the third-place game.
CSCS will now have to travel to a to be determined location for next weekend’s regional tournament. It will be the first time the Lions have had to travel in at least 10 years according to Evans.
The Pirates’ map to their next desired treasure will start next weekend by hosting a regional game before turning their focus towards the state tournament.
“We’re just hoping we play with the same intensity that we did in our last two games against TCA and CSCS,” Whitelaw said. “Just going into regionals with that and going into state playing our hearts out.”
Expectations will continue to rise for St. Mary’s but as the Pirates have already shown by winning the 3A Tri Peaks league title Saturday, this year’s team has the senior leadership to continue their push to state.
“Everyone last year said this was your guy’s year. And then this year it’s 10 times more. Everyone is telling us this is the year,” Bria Sweeney said. “I really feel it this year. I think it’s the year.”