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Doherty gets best of Cheyenne Mountain in battle of area powers
Haleigh Washington had 11 of her 22 kills in the final two sets as Doherty came from behind to defeat visiting Cheyenne Mountain 25-12, 21-25, 15-25, 25-15, 15-9.
“That was two good teams going at it,” Doherty coach Tara Hittle said Tuesday. “They put us to the test and my girls responded well — I’m really happy about that.”
After playing a power game during the first three sets, the state leader in hitting (.702) went often to a finesse game.
“My philosophy is expect the unexpected,” Washington said. “Sometimes you have to play smarter. Placing the ball is just as effective as hitting the ball hard.”
What are arguably the two best teams in the area put on an exhibition with enough ebb and flow to make observers seasick. Doherty is ranked No. 1 in 5A and 19th nationally by MaxPreps. Cheyenne Mountain is the three-time defending state 4A champions and has won 39 of its past 41 matches.
The Indians’ only losses the past two seasons were to defending 5A state champion Chaparral in this season’s opener and Tuesday’s five-set classic.
“Cheyenne Mountain always has a good team, just a traditionally good program, well coached, great players,” said Hittle, whose team improved to 12-0.
Doherty’s front line had eight blocks. Washington had a hand in three of those and also had four kills.
But Cheyenne Mountain (8-2) came back to take the second and third sets as Maddie Beal and Megan Schultz led the offense. The Indians also altered their approach.
“They were crossing their hitters a little bit and running different routes,” Hittle said. “For a little while, our blockers were losing their hitter or not identifying what they were hitting.”
Washington had six of Doherty’s eight kills (Cierra Simpson had the other two) in a fourth set filled with miscues. Cheyenne Mountain had eight hitting errors, not including blocks, and three service errors. It was the Spartans’ execution on serve receive that allowed them to feed Washington and forced the Cheyenne Mountain errors.
“Our passing was getting a little bit better, which is absolutely crucial for setting the middle,” Hittle said. “Our passing was better so we were able to be in system and set her, which is always a good thing for us.”
Washington had five kills in the deciding set.
“If we give them a free ball and Haleigh Washington’s in play, there’s not much anyone can do,” Cheyenne Mountain coach David Barkley said. “She may be the best middle blocker the state of Colorado has ever seen.
“I’d say she is.”