VIDEO: Preseason Volleyball Top 25
A second chance made all the difference for the Lutheran (Parker)
volleyball team a year ago.
Having been relegated to the elimination bracket after a second-round loss to five-time defending Class 3A state champion Eaton
, the Lions went to work. Three consecutive victories put Lutheran into the state semifinals, where the team gained a big measure of revenge – not only for the early loss, but for a 2017 state title-game defeat – by defeating the Reds in five sets to end the team's 3A stronghold.
From there, all Lutheran needed to do was take down
Colorado Springs Christian
, which the Lions did in four sets, to win the team's first crown since a 2A championship in 2012.
Now, Lutheran enters the season as the hunted for the first in six years, and the 3A classification has a new team to beat.
"There's always that pressure to get back," the reigning 3A Player of the Year, Lions senior Payton Brgoch, told a crowd of media earlier this month at the CHSAA and Denver Broncos Fall Sports Media Day. "I think we're just focusing on the road to get there, because it takes a lot to get there, first. As much of a feat as that was last year, and how exciting that was, we're focusing on this year and the journey to get there."
Brgoch finished her junior season with 434 kills and 108 blocks for Lutheran, which closed 2018 with an impressive 29-2 mark. Kennedey Johnson joined Brgoch as a first-team all-state selection after leading the team with 558 assists and 52 aces. Libero Bella Vezzani notched 377 digs to pace the squad as a sophomore.
Eaton was heavy with underclassmen a year ago and graduated only three seniors, though losing all-state outside hitter Mackenzie Harris is a setback.
Platte Valley (Kersey)
– which won a 3A Patriot League that sent six teams to state – returns leading hitter Claire Smith
. Colorado Springs Christian, which made an impressive run to the title game, graduated four seniors, but returns some big pieces at key positions.
Defending state champion:
Nov. 14-16 at Denver ColiseumReturning all-state players:
Payton Brgoch, Sr., Lutheran (1st team); Delaney Eckhardt, Sr., Valley
(2nd team); Ashlynn Hainey, Sr., Englewood
(2nd team); Kennedey Johnson,
Sr., Lutheran (1st team); Jordan Mobbley, Sr., Alamosa (2nd team).
Here is a quick look at the state's other four classifications heading into the start of the season:Class 5A
Defending state champion: Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch)State championship:
Nov. 14-16 at Denver ColiseumReturning all-state players: Emma Ammerman
, Sr., Chaparral (Parker)
(1st team); Sydney Cole, Sr., Cherokee Trail (Aurora)
(1st team); Julianna Dalton
, Sr., Chaparral (1st team); Anna Davis
Valor Christian (1st team); Elsa Lamphere
, Sr., Grandview (Aurora)
, Sr., Castle View (Castle Rock)
Teams looking to climb to the top in 5A for the first time should feel good about their chances, at least based on recent history.
Over the last four years, 5A has crowned a first-time champion at the Denver Coliseum each November. A year ago it was Valor Christian taking its turn, knocking off top-seeded Chaparral in four sets to bring home the trophy in its first season in the 5A classification. Before Valor, it was Castle View (2017), Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins)
(2016) and Cherokee Trail (2015).
Valor Christian graduated Player of the Year Courtney Lane and fellow first-team all-state pick Lily Thomasen, but middle blocker Anna Davis (114 blocks as a junior) returns. Caroline Reinkensmeyer
led the team in assists as a junior.
Chaparral entered state with only two losses all season. Three of the team's top hitters return in seniors Julianna Dalton, Emma Ammerman and Morgan Riddle, though all-state outside hitter Kira Thomsen graduated. The team brings back its setter combination in Ammerman and sophomore Katie Dalton
Cherokee Trail took Chaparral to five sets in the semifinals before falling to the Wolverines. Sydney Cole was a first-team all-state setter as a junior, and Amaya Messier led the Cougars in kills as a sophomore with 316.
The Eaglecrest (Centennial)
duo of Audrey Black and Gabby Vogt combined for 790 kills as juniors, and Grandview's Elsa Lamphere had 320 kills as a junior.
Castle View experienced some growing pains after winning its title, but the Sabercats return all-state libero Leanne Lowry.Class 4A
Over the past 11 years, Lewis-Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain (Colorado Springs)
have dominated the 4A ranks. The Rangers have won the past three state titles and five of the last six, and reached the championship game seven years running.
But the Rangers graduated eight seniors, including Player of the Year McKenna Sciacca. All-state libero Gianna Bartalo returns, but the rest of the 4A classification will certainly be eager to see if Lewis-Palmer can be knocked from its perch this fall.
, which made the title game, was hit hard by graduation. Holy Family (Broomfield)
, the 2017 runner-up, moves forward without all-state outside hitter Ali Travis, but the Tigers still have some good pieces in place after graduating only three seniors.
, the only team to take a set off Lewis-Palmer at state, also lost some key performers, but Payton Jonason led the team in kills as a junior. Mead
's top hitter was a freshman, Quincey Coyle, and Hailee Martinez averaged more than 10 assists a set as a sophomore.
Discovery Canyon (Colorado Springs)
has an experienced core back from a team that was the No. 2 seed at state. Silver Creek's Caitlin Volkmann recorded 552 kills as a junior, which led the state.
Like Lewis-Palmer, Yuma has a penchant for reaching the championship game in 2A. The Indians have played for the title in each of the past five seasons, though the team has won only two crowns – one of which came last year.
Yuma will have to move forward this year though without its potent 1-2 punch of Chasey Blach – the 2018 POY in 2A – and Cody Robinson. That tandem combined for 793 kills a year ago for Yuma, which dropped only one set at the state tournament. Reagan Nolin led the team in assists as a junior with 952.
Denver Christian enters 2019 as the preseason favorite. The Thunder lost only two matches last fall, one of which came in the title game to Yuma. Jacki Bogner and Anna Kaemingk combined for 681 kills as juniors for a team that didn't drop a set at state until the title game.
had two of its four losses come to Yuma last fall, and another came to Denver Christian in the semifinals. Paige Finegan led the team in kills and blocks as a junior.
graduated only three seniors off a team that was one victory away from reaching the semifinals.
Lyons, the 2017 champion, returns all-state outside hitter Taylor Maguire. As a junior, Maguire notched 481 kills, good for second in 2A – Vail Mountain's Sarah Evans, who graduated, had 488.
was undefeated going into the state tournament. Top hitter Krissie Luce graduated, as did setter Kassie Luce. Julia Dinwiddie
was second on the team in kills as a junior with 261. Class 1A
Defending state champion: Kit CarsonState championship:
Nov. 14-16 at Denver ColiseumReturning all-state players:
, So., Fleming
(1st team); Kimberlyn Krise
(2nd team); Desi Ortivez
, Sr., La Veta
(1st team); Nya Sciacca
, Sr., La Veta; Madison Sutter, Jr., Merino
Over the previous three seasons, Kit Carson has enjoyed a dominating run. The Wildcats were a combined 82-2 from 2016-18, winning state titles in 2017-18. But the team moves forward this year without two-time Player of the Year Tess Hornung, along with four others.
La Veta, which had its only two losses come to Kit Carson, lost only two seniors from a squad that reached the 1A title game. One of those departures is all-state outside hitter Kaylee Corsentino, who had 436 kills. But Desi Ortivez was a first-team all-state selection with 241 kills and 123 blocks, and Nya Sciacca made the second team after finishing third in kills with 239 and leading the team in digs. Setter Mary Goins
also returns after recording 584 assists as a sophomore.
Then there is Fleming, which made the semis as a No. 10 seed and won three titles in four years earlier this decade. Whitney Chintala had a dominant freshman campaign with 539 kills and 639 digs, and Kendyl Kirkwood
had 910 assists as a sophomore.
Merino was young as well. Madison Sutter was a second-team all-state pick as a sophomore after finishing with 839 assists, and Faith Trenkle had 642 digs as a sophomore.
Kimberlyn Krise recorded 444 kills as a junior for Briggsdale, Weldon Valley graduated four seniors from a team that reached the semifinals, but has some good talent back.