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Volleyball notes: St. Mary's gives 3A champion Valley its biggest test of the season
St. Mary’s did something that no other team has been able to do this season when the Pirates took the first two sets against eventual champion Valley in the semifinals of the 3A state volleyball championships Saturday at the Denver Coliseum.
But that’s as many as they would get against top-seeded Valley (28-0), which had previously lost only one set all season. Valley came back to win the match 22-25, 19-25, 25-18, 25-18, 17-15.
“St. Mary’s is probably the best team that we’ve seen this season,” Valley coach Rene Aafedt said. “They have a huge block; they were quick.”
Sarah Tentschert had 24 kills for St. Mary’s (26-2), which came in as the No. 5 seed.
“I have a lot of respect for Valley,” St. Mary’s coach Melissa Sweeney said. “If we’re going to lose fighting hard like that, I’ll take it to Valley.”
In order to qualify for the semifinals, St. Mary’s had to survive a tough pool-play match against No. 4 seed University, which the Pirates won 25-14, 24-26, 25-17, 25-18. Emily Whitelaw had 17 kills and Tentschert 15 in the win.
“We’ve been through quite a journey this year,” Sweeney said. “We had major injuries at the beginning of the season to two of my main players. We recovered from that. At regionals, we got sick with the flu and got through that.
“For us to be here and be this strong was amazing. I couldn’t be prouder, what a way to go out.”
The first area team to suffer elimination on Saturday did so as a spectator. Manitou Springs went 1-1 Friday and needed Holy Family to beat Valley 3-0 in order to qualify for a one-set playoff.
Valley won the first set, eliminating Manitou Springs, and went on to win the match to reach the semifinals, where it eliminated another area team, St, Mary’s.
When Coronado and Lewis-Palmer faced off in the semifinals, it brought together two coaches that know each other very, very well. Lewis-Palmer coach Susan Odenbaugh was an assistant to Don Lash during the final 13 years of his 18-year tenure at the school.
Now at Coronado (24-4), Lash wished he could play someone else in the semifinal.
“I hate to play Susan; I hate that that’s the matchup,” he said. “We’ll give it our best and what happens, happens.”
Lewis-Palmer advanced to the championship match with a 25-18, 25-12, 25-20 win.
Doherty gets a scare
Doherty got a scare in the final match of pool play when Highlands Ranch took the Spartans to a fifth set in a 25-15, 25-21, 23-25, 21-25, 15-6 Doherty win.
Having squandered a two-set lead and looking anything like 5A’s top seed, Doherty coach Tara Hittle showed her team a photo prior to the start of the fifth set. It was a photo of the team in jubilation after a big win.
“I showed them this picture of them,” Hittle said, showing the photo, “and I (asked) ‘What do you see in this picture? Do you see champions? Do you see warriors? Do you see fearlessness? This is us. Let’s be us.’”
Doherty was all of those thing in the fifth set. Leading 5-4 on the strength of three Haleigh Washington kills, Doherty closed with a dominating 10-2 run behind four kills by Gabby Simpson.
“I think we were just kind of playing safe,” Hittle said of the turnaround. “We like to play to win at all times but we were being complacent and playing not to lose.”
Former Manitou Springs coach recognized
Judy Barnett, former Manitou Springs volleyball coach, was recognized before the state title matches for her contributions to volleyball around the state and in correspondence with the 40th anniversary of Title IX. Barnett spent 22 years at the helm for the Mustangs and won four state titles.