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Lewis-Palmer breezes through new regional format to make state
Mesa Ridge out; some critical of format
MONUMENT • The first glimpse of postseason volleyball’s new format drew harsh critiques, even by a Lewis-Palmer team that breezed through it.
The second-seeded Rangers defeated No. 35 Montezuma-Cortez and No. 23 Mesa Ridge each in straight sets — by an average score of 25-15 — to advance to next week’s state tournament. That was all it took. In the past, teams had to grind their way through six-team districts, where two advanced to regionals. Then, half of the four-team regional would make an eight-team state field.
This year districts were eliminated and the pre-state round was pared to 12 three-team regionals that each sent one representative to state.
“I like the old way better,” said Rangers senior Mickey Moss, whose well-rounded day included 30 digs and 38 assists. “This is just kind of like you’re here now instead of the step, check; step, check.”
Lewis-Palmer coach Susan Odenbaugh’s concern with the format is that top teams won’t be prepared for the grind of state, where the second day might require a team to play three times.
The Rangers (21-4) will enter state having played just two matches over their previous two weeks — and neither was close.
“In the past you’ve gone to a really tough district and a really tough regional, so you’re prepared for state,” Odenbaugh said. “I’m not sure that this format gives you the competition that you need. Not to disparage anyone we played, but it doesn’t give you the competition you need to be fully prepared for the competition you’ll see at state.”
Odenbaugh said none of the volleyball banners in the gym — including state championships in 2001 and 2002 — would exist under this format, as those teams all lost early postseason games but had the leeway to recover.
The same was true last year, when then-freshman Alexa Smith led the team to state through two difficult weekends that helped launch them into what has been a spectacular run this season.
Smith, by the way, had 30 kills in the two regional matches.
The leeway that helped build Lewis-Palmer into a juggernaut no longer exists, a reality Mesa Ridge (18-7) discovered Saturday.
“It stinks,” said Grizzlies coach Francis Calar, whose team beat Montezuma-Cortez in straight sets before it fell to the Rangers.“You’re stuck in a pool that you have no control over. If they consider you a weak pool, it affects you in the standings. Even though you do well, and you do well against those teams, it drops you in the ratings. I don’t like it at all.”
The pool Calar was referencing was the 4A Metro, which Mesa Ridge dominated with the exception of Coronado. A strong season still left the Grizzlies stuck against a Lewis-Palmer squad that could well have been the top seed – the seeding committee’s use of MaxPreps rankings was also a point of contention for Odenbaugh.
That the Rangers easily dispatched both of its foes was no surprise (they topped Montezuma-Cortez 25-15, 25-12, 25-15 and Mesa Ridge 25-16, 25-12, 25-19), but a return trip to state was something Odenbaugh didn’t take lightly.
“It’s not a relief, it’s a celebration,” she said. “We’re celebrating the fact that we get to go. It’s a big deal.”
It’s worth noting that though the regional format didn’t generate much positive buzz, it did serve in sending teams that earned the highest seeds to state. The top eight seeds each advanced in 4A, and only one team seeded lower than 16th (No. 26 Silver Creek) will be among the 12 at state.