With a new Olympic-style bracket, area volleyball teams begin their battle for a state title Thursday at the Denver Coliseum.
The state tournament will be double-elimination through the quarterfinals. From there it will be single elimination.
No. 1 Lewis-Palmer
Scouting the Rangers: The Lewis-Palmer girls’ volleyball team returns to the state tournament looking for its third-straight state title.
As the top seed in Class 4A the Rangers earned a first-round bye, and will take on either No. 9 Ponderosa or Monument rival No. 8 Palmer Ridge in the second round. Lewis-Palmer defeated Palmer Ridge in straight sets for the 5A/4A PPAC title in October.
Lewis-Palmer is nationally ranked in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, ranked as the No. 11 team in the nation. Last year the Rangers were the No. 7 team in the country after winning their second consecutive state championship.
After claiming the conference title the Rangers had a tough slate of games to end the season, including two matches against Valor Christian, who Lewis-Palmer battled in the state title last year; Chaparral, which ended the Rangers’ two-year-long winning streak in the second game of the season; and Fossil Ridge, which was ranked in the Xcellent 25 earlier this year. Lewis-Palmer won three of those four matches by 3-1 scores and swept Chaparral.
Statistically Lewis-Palmer is above the national average in virtually every category, averaging 12.1 kills per set and a staggering .278 hitting percentage — nearly double the national average.
Taylor Buckley leads the Lewis-Palmer offense with 235 kills, averaging 3.1 per set, followed by Trinity Jackson with 222. Addie Feek and Kess Krutsinger lead the team in hitting percentage with .415 and .382, respectively. Feek has 119 kills and Krutsinger has 165.
McKenna Sciacca is the Rangers’ leader behind the service line with 59 aces, averaging nearly an ace per set. Buckley is second with 42.
At the net Krutsinger and Feek lead with 66 and 52 total blocks, respectively.
Giana Bartalo is one of the most consistent liberos in the state with 380 digs and just 28 errors, and 293 serve receptions and just 14 receiving errors.
No. 2 Discovery Canyon
Scouting the Thunder: Just a year after the program’s first appearance in the state tournament, Discovery Canyon earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. Aside from a season-opening loss, and a defeat by 4A No. 1 Lewis-Palmer, Discovery Canyon has stormed through the regular season and had a dominating performance at its regional last weekend.
Discovery Canyon defeated Golden 3-1 and Frederick 3-0 as the team claimed the 4A Region 2 title thanks to its powerful offense. Through two matches the Thunder struck down 89 kills, averaging more than 12 per set. The team also had 27 aces through the tournament, averaging nearly four per set.
The Thunder will start their journey in the second round Thursday, playing either No. 7 Holy Family or No. 10 Silver Creek. Discovery Canyon has already defeated Silver Creek this season during the Palmer Ridge tournament, beating the Raptors in a demanding 25-19, 25-16 two-set tournament victory.
Ashten Prechtel leads the Thunder with 191 kills and leads Class 4A with a .426 hitting percentage. The 6-foot-5 senior also leads the class with a staggering 158 total blocks — nearly 40 more than the next-ranked 4A player. She is second overall in the state, one behind Ellicott freshman Dalton Henderson. She will likely become the state leader after the tournament this weekend as she is averaging nearly seven blocks per match.
Tatum Umiamaka is second on the team in blocks with 69 followed by Hannah Pethtel with 62. Pethtel also had an incredible nine aces against Golden in the Region 2 tournament.
Junior Leah Lester is second on the team with 156 kills, followed by sophomore Paityn Kramer with 149. Kramer leads the team in aces with 58, averaging nearly an ace per set. She is chased by senior Haley Bryant, who has 47.
No. 8 Palmer Ridge
Scouting the Bears: Returning a young team with a new coach, the Palmer Ridge volleyball team has thrived despite having one of the highest strength of schedule ratings among the top eight Class 4A teams. Three of Palmer Ridge’s regular-season losses were to teams ranked in the state’s top 10, while another fell within the state’s top 25.
One of those losses could become a rematch for the Bears if they defeat No. 9 Ponderosa in the first round. Thanks to a first-round bye for No. 1 Lewis-Palmer, the Monument rivals could meet again in the second round.
But first they will have to get past the Region 11 champ Ponderosa, which enters the state tournament on a three-match winning streak.
Palmer Ridge earned a trip to the state tournament thanks to a Region 9 sweep in which they defeated Roosevelt and Eagle Valley by astounding margins. The Bears held their tournament opponents to just 17 points per set, on average.
The Bears are led by four hitters who have 100 or more kills on the season, led by sophomore Riley Anderson with 141. She’s chased by Summer Reflogal with 138, followed by Brooklyn Gamble (113) and Naeemah Weathers (107). Weathers had her best match of the season against Eagle Valley in the Region 9 tournament, smacking 12 kills with a .476 hitting percentage.
Although Palmer Ridge is below the national average for aces, the Bears have seven hitters who have 14 or more aces this season. The national average per player is 15.6. Elysia Glowacz leads the team with 31 aces, followed by Reflogal with 21.
Gamble leads the charge at the net with 43 total blocks followed by Abby Kugler with 32.
Sophomore libero Elaina Della Rossa had a consistent season for the Bears defensively, racking up 315 digs with just 76 errors and received 342 serves with just 33 errors.
No. 11 Cheyenne Mountain
Scouting the Indians: Cheyenne Mountain entered last year’s regional weekend as the No. 24 seed in Class 4A and traveled to the Region 12 tournament to eventually upset host then-No. 12 Woodland Park. The Indians battled to defeat the Panthers in a 3-1 win, then defeated Battle Mountain in a five-set grind to earn a trip to the state tournament, marking the team’s 16th straight appearance.
Cheyenne Mountain rebounded from a 2-1 deficit against Battle Mountain to win the final two sets in dominant fashion (25-14, 25-12) to clinch the region title. Junior Kaelin Coe and senior Hannah Lewis had their best match of the season with 12 kills each. Against Woodland Park Ella Eddy tied her season high in kills with 14, and hit .417. The Panthers claimed the first set in the region opener, but Cheyenne Mountain took it from there, not allowing Woodland Park to score more than 18 points in any of the remaining sets.
No. 11 Cheyenne Mountain will face No. 6 Evergreen in the first round. The Cougars enter the tournament on a 15-game winning streak, losing just 15 sets this season.
Eddy leads the Indians with 208 kills this season, followed by Jackie Martensen with 197. Freshman Karlee Pinell is third on the team with 154 kills, followed by Lewis with 115.
The Indians have four players with 25 or more blocks this season led by Lewis with 60. Martensen follows with 51.
Macy Feign is Cheyenne Mountain’s top threat behind the service line with 43 aces. Coe follows with 28, while Eddie has 23 and Martensen has 21.
Six Indians have 100 or more digs, led by Sydney Wagner with 494. Wagner and Martensen split duties on serve receive with 354 and 336 receptions, respectively.
No. 6 Colorado Springs Christian
Scouting the Lions: After storming through the massive 3A Tri-Peaks league with an undefeated record, the Colorado Springs Christian volleyball team continued its successful season into the 3A Region 7 tournament.
On the way to a home-regional victory, CSCS swept Delta and claimed a 3-1 win over Centauri to earn a No. 6 seed in the Class 3A state tournament. Charlie Tidwell had the tournament of her career, racking up 23 kills versus Delta for a season high and a stunning .618 hitting percentage. She then smacked down 22 kills against Centauri. She also had a season-high four aces against the Falcons.
The Lions will face No. 11 Sterling in the first round. Sterling is fresh off a Region 5 upset in which it clinched the title over Manitou Springs in a five-set victory over the Mustangs. Should the Lions make it through to the second round they will face No. 3 University, which defeated CSCS 3-0 in the second game of the regular season. CSCS went on to win nine straight after its loss to University.
The Lions are led by five hitters with 120 or more kills on the season, led by Christa Vogt with 198, followed by Tidwell with 187. Abby Miller (175), Jubilee Diamond (143) and Megan Engesser (122) follow. Tidwell, who has appeared in 42 sets, is averaging 4.5 kills per set and leads the team in hitting percentage with .316.
Miller leads the Lions behind the service line with 54 aces, averaging nearly an ace per set. She is followed closely by Diamond, who has 50.
As a team CSCS has nearly doubled the national average in total blocks with 197, led by Vogt with 71, 56 of which are solo. She averages nearly a block per set, while the team averages 7.9 per match. Engesser follows with 54 total blocks.