It’s a big weekend in Denver for the Fort Collins area girls volleyball teams.
Three schools qualified for the Colorado High School State Volleyball Tournament at Denver Coliseum: Fossil Ridge (5A), Windsor (4A), Liberty Common (3A).
The action gets underway on Thursday with the first round in the morning, followed by the second round in the evening when the top 4 teams in each classification start their tournament by byes.
The 12-team format in each classification is double-elimination through the semifinals, where it becomes single-elimination. The semi-finals take place on Saturday afternoon, while the title matches take place on Saturday at 6 p.m
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What a comeback!
Three points after winning the semifinals of the Class 4A national tournament, the Windsor High School volleyball team miraculously recovered to claim a five-set win.
As a result, the Wizards will play for a state championship for the first time in 26 years at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday night.
Two sets clean and 22-13 in the third set against top seed Palmer Ridge, the Wizards refused to let their season end.
They used a block from North Carolina’s Julia Bohlinger and Zoe Bauer to start a run of eight straight points and got two more blocks from Bohlinger and Bauer, a kill from Avery Lacy and three misses from Palmer Ridge.
Suddenly the score was 22-21 and the Wizards (25-4) could indeed envision the unlikely comeback after losing the first set 25-18, the second 25-23 and falling behind in the third 22-13 to before rebounding for a 28-26 win.
Windsor won the fourth set 25-20 after falling 10-3 behind and completed the stunning comeback with an 18-16 victory in the deciding fifth set, a thrilling affair with every touch seemingly ending the season or could extend by either team.
“We just never stop fighting,” said Lacy, a veteran outsider. “Every time we huddled together, we just came together as a team and just emphasized that we never stop fighting and it paid off for us in the end.”
The win puts No. 3 Windsor in the state championship game at 6 p.m. against defending No. 2 Thompson Valley.
Thompson Valley defeated Windsor in three sets on Friday, forcing the Wizards into the elimination round, where they won a five-set thriller against Lutheran on Saturday morning.
After a first-round bye as one of the top four teams in the 12-team bracket, Windsor opened play in the state tournament with a five-set win Thursday over Niwot.
“The past few games have just given them a little more confidence, a little more motivation,” said Windsor coach LaVerne Huston. “Palmer Ridge was number 1, so we had nothing to lose.”
The only previous loss for Palmer Ridge (25-3) this season was undefeated Valor Christian (28-0), who will play for the Class 5A title on Saturday night.
Windsor took his points in the last three sets in just about every way imaginable, setting up blocks that the Bears either hit into or sent shots long or wide to avoid them. They’ve received kills from Bohlinger, Lacy, setter Kadence Marsh and outside hitter Cailyn McCracken, many of them after impressive digs from libero Elle Faulkner and others to keep balls alive.
And their serves improved as the game progressed, putting Palmer Ridge on their heels and taking away the passes that sparked the powerful attacks they used to dominate the opening two sets. Rowan Starman served two straight aces to help Windsor bounce back from a 17-14 deficit early in the fourth set, and Bohlinger served three straight aces in the fifth set.
Whatever it took to keep their season going, the Wizards found a way to get it done.
“We’re playing for our seniors right now because some of them might not be able to touch the court again,” said Lacy, who signed Wednesday to play at Chadron State’s college. “We just want to play for them and play for each other and we’re so passionate about it.
“We just never wanted to stop fighting at the end of the game.”
Fossil Ridge extended its stay by winning a five-set eliminator over Cherokee Trail before settling in a three-set loss to No. 4 Rampart passed.
Rampart swept the No. 8 SaberCats 25-21, 25-17, 25-10 to advance into another elimination against Cherry Creek on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Both of Fossil Ridge’s wins in the state tournament came in five sets and both losses in three sets.
On Friday morning, the SaberCats (21-8) outlasted the Cherokee Trail 25-19, 19-25, 25-18, 23-25, 15-6.
Middle blocker Erin Hermann had 15 kills and was involved in a handful of blocks including one with Makayla Dorsey to end the match. Delaney Ewing, also a middle blocker, and outside hitter Maya Siple each added 12 kills.
Ally Nowak served three straight aces and Emma Grace Moddelmog had two straight aces early in the third set to help the SaberCats take control. Fossil Ridge had seven serve aces in this set.
Fossil Ridge outlasted Chatfield in a five-set opener on Thursday, only to be swept 24-18, 25-10, 25-14 and thrown into the elimination round by undefeated and ranked 1st Valor Christian later in the day.
Liberty Common’s season ended as it began, with a loss to Faith Christian in a hard-fought match.
This time it was in an eliminator on Friday at the Class 3A state tournament.
Liberty Common (14-11) held his own and even had leads midway through the first two sets before winning the third. But Faith Christian, the No. 4, took control in the fourth set with powerful serve, adjusting attacks to bypass the Liberty Common block and a 25-21 27-25 14-25 25-14 win to gain.
Faith Christian had opened his season on Aug. 23 with a five-set win at Liberty Common.
“They were the bookends of our season,” said Reina Krueger, a senior at Liberty Common. “I’m really proud of my team and the season we’ve had. At least we won a set here (in the state) this year.”
Liberty Common had 10 blocks in Friday’s game, including three in a row early in the second set.
Krueger was involved in seven of those blocks and Sarah Bartels in four.
Karli Krueger, Reina’s younger sister, ended up with 17 kills while Reina had 15.
Liberty Common entered the postseason No. 15 in the 36-team playoff field, but upset Moffat County and host Prospect Ridge Academy in three sets each to win a regional championship and earn themselves a No. 11 in the 12-team state secure tournament.
“I’m glad we played to our abilities and not to the specifications that were given to us,” said Liberty Commons coach Brian Krueger, Reina and Karli’s father.
Liberty Common fell into the qualifying round of the state tournament after being swept by Patriot League rivals University on Thursday in its first-round game.