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Coach Kaitlyn Hastings' Valor Christian volleyball team didn't stop believing until the end.
Top-seeded and undefeated Lewis-Palmer downed the second-seeded Eagles 3-0 in the Class 4A state championship match Nov. 11 at the Denver Coliseum, but Valor didn't accept the runner-up trophy without a fight against the seven-time state champion Rangers.
Lewis-Palmer won the first two sets, 25-22 and 25-18, but the Eagles kept their hopes alive in the dramatic third before finally losing, 35-33.
“We made those Lewis Palmer fans say `it's over' about 15 or 16 times,” Hastings said. “We kept playing hard. We had the prize in mind (state title) from the start.
“I know the girls believed that they could beat them and I believed them. We played like that and we showed we can compete with them. It was a tough loss but we wanted to be here and almost expected to be here because of the talent of these girls.”
Valor, which finished with a 23-6 record, won its pool with a pair of 3-1 victories over Cheyenne Mountain and Pueblo West. Last season, the Eagles lost to Holy Family in the semifinals but edged the Tigers 3-2 in this year's semifinals to advance into the title match.
There was only one senior that was a regular player for the Eagles this season.
“We definitely have a lot of players returning for next year, which is exciting,” Hastings said. “We need to have that belief from the start with all the talent we have. We certainly have the firepower and talent.
“The girls played their hearts out this season, they did their roles and each player did a fantastic job of stepping up to the plate."
In other action involving teams from Highlands Ranch, Rock Canyon upset third-seeded Castle View, 3-2, in its first Class 5A pool game but the lost to Coronado, 3-2, which forced a three-team, one-set playoff to see which team advanced to the semifinals.
Rock Canyon beat Coronado, 25-20, in a tiebreaker but then lost, 23-25, to Castle View, which went on to win the state championship.
Rock Canyon senior Keely Davis had 82 kills in 12 sets during the championships, including 38 of the team's 63 kills in the first match against Castle View. Sophomore Kaylee Mejia had 55 assists in the two matches and two tiebreakers.
“I'm very proud of the girls,” said Rock Canyon coach Angela Nylund-Hanson. “The girls fought hard. To come in as the tenth seed and play like we did and beat the top seed in our pool when we first came out was huge. They accomplished a lot of things. Obviously we wanted more but we should be proud and not hang our heads."
Rock Canyon concluded the season with a 20-9 record.
Mountain Vista, the top-seeded Class 5A team, was upset by Cherry Creek, 3-2, in the first match of pool play on Nov. 10 when the Golden Eagles dropped the decisive fifth set, 15-7.
Vista defeated Rocky Mountain 3-0 and then had to wait to see if Rocky Mountain could defeat Creek in the final pool match on Nov. 11. The Vista team was cheering for the Lobos but Creek rallied in all three sets to advance into the semifinals with a 3-0 victory which ended the Golden Eagles' season with a 22-5 record.
Last season, the Golden Eagles had to play two tiebreakers, one against Creek, to gain the semifinals and finals before losing in five sets to 2016 state champion Fossil Ridge.
“It would have been good to play a tiebreaker this year,” coach Doug Schafer said. “We played well for about 80 percent of the time against Creek. But that 20 percent was enough to lose it. We just didn't have enough in the fifth. We probably lost it earlier when we let up on the gas. Then Creek started playing better.
“This group of girls were great all season. We got better as the season progressed. That's what got us to No. 1 coming into state and it just didn't go well for us at state.”
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