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Team-by-team breakdown of local volleyball squads at state
No. 1 Doherty (25-0)
(Pool-play opponents: No. 12 Chatfield, No. 8 Highlands Ranch)
The Spartans have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the state this season, dropping just four sets this season – three over a pair of matches to Cheyenne Mountain and one to Lewis-Palmer. The standout player is Haleigh Washington, the transfer from Idaho Springs who has committed to Penn State. Washington leads the state in hitting percentage (her .563 percentage is 83 points higher than second on the list). But Washington doesn’t work alone, and often doesn’t play the back row. Kiara McKibben, Gabby Simpson and Cierra Simpson are Division-I talents, middle blocker Jamila Biglow is a defensive force and coach Tara Hittle is herself a former state Player of the Year and state champion for the Spartans. A banner to hang next to the one Hittle helped earn in 2003 is the expectation.
No. 1 Cheyenne Mountain (21-4)
Pool-play opponents: No. 12 Silver Creek, No. 8 Durango
The Indians are seeking their fifth consecutive state title, and would be the overwhelming favorite to get it if it weren’t for area foe Lewis-Palmer. Cheyenne Mountain is led by setter Monique Domme, who will sign next week with national power Pepperdine. The rest of the roster oozes talent and pedigree, led by junior Maddie Beal (daughter of USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal, an Olympic gold-medal winning coach) and Mara Barkley (daughter of coach David Barkley). Sophomore Courtney Domme anchors the back row defense. There’s no weakness, but there’s not the pizzazz provided by Janae Vander Ploeg in the past. A title wouldn’t be a surprise, but neither would a rare runner-up finish.
No. 2 Lewis-Palmer (21-4)
Pool-play opponents: No. 11 Mountain View, No. 7 Thompson Valley
Small logistical factors are working against the Rangers. For example, they play the final match in pool play Saturday and then potentially the second semifinal, so they could play three matches in short order and may have little time between the semis and finals. These are their only problems. Sophomore Alexa Smith is the state’s most complete player, 6-foot-6 middle blocker Claire Felix is fully comfortable in her role upon gaining eligibility at midseason after transferring from TCA and Mickey Moss would be the best player on 95 percent of teams in the state but is relegated to role player – albeit an important one – in this lineup. The list goes on, with Cat Svendson, sophomore jumping jack Nicole Montgomery and senior Bailey Fenimore providing key contributions. Coach Susan Odenbaugh brought a team to state with little more than Smith a year ago. She may well win it with the right pieces around Smith this time.
No. 6 Coronado (22-3)
Pool-play opponents: No. 10 Broomfield, No. 3 Longmont
The Cougars were the runners-up last year and were perfect this year against everyone other than Cheyenne Mountain, Doherty and Lewis-Palmer. Coach Don Lash is a master of the sport, with more than 500 career victories. The standout players are Erica Lambert and Serina Nickle, with depth provided by Madison Darby-McClure, Alexia Morey and Julie Ward. The gap between Coronado and Cheyenne Mountain and Lewis-Palmer seems fairly wide, but so does the gap between the Cougars and virtually everyone else. If those top two seeds have a slip-up, it could open the door for a surprising run.
No. 5 St. Mary’s (24-1)
Pool-play opponents: No. 9 Sterling, No. 4 University
Four years (more, really) have built to this moment for the Pirates. A group of seniors that includes Laura Broerman, Nicole Niles, Hannah Stockelman, Bria Sweeney, Sarah Tentschert and Emily Whitelaw have been the core of the team since their freshmen year. They just won their first league title. Might a run at state follow?
No. 10 CSCS (18-7)
Pool-play opponents: No. 3 Bayfield, No. 6 Gunnison
The Lions have no more on-the-floor connections to the run of six consecutive titles that ended in 2009, but they can still play. A spirited group of freshmen, led by Mariah Evans and Abby Skrastins, have injected new life into this program. If they were to break through this weekend, a new dynasty just might be hatched.
No. 12 Manitou Springs (19-6)
Pool-play opponents: No. 1 Valley, No. 8 Holy Family
Coach Carol Benedict has helped to make volleyball fun again for the Mustangs (and raucous support from the home crowd hasn’t hurt). How that all might translate at state remains to be seen. Regardless, with wins this season over TCA (three times) and CSCS, it was a season of redefining the program behind newcomers like freshmen Katie McKiel and Nicole Mack. Anything else would be an added bonus.