by Sam Haimann
The Triple Crown Colorado Challenge gave us a great highlight on a handful of exciting teams from across the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and Big Sky country with three days of tough tune-up tilts. Today, we have our picks for the weekend’s All-Tournament selections for the event, produced by Triple Crown Sports and Colorado Juniors VBC.
You can run back through the action form each round with our daily recaps and be on the lookout for team profile and player highlights still to come!
Bracket Champion: Kairos Elite 15 Alpha
Most Outstanding Player: Ruthie Robinson, Middle Blocker, Kairos Elite 15 Alpha
Rachel Bower, Outside Hitter, Idaho Crush 15 Bower
Madlen Gloessner, Middle Blocker, Front Range 15-1 Black
Delaney Lauer, Outside Hitter/Middle Blocker, NORCO 15 Black
Jersey McCollum, Setter, NORCO 15 Black
Jayda Northdurft, Outside Hitter, NORCO 15 Black
Tess Pratt, Libero/DS, South County 15 Sarah
Landry Roberts, Outside Hitter, Colorado Juniors 15 Jen
Josalyn Samuels, Setter, Kairos Elite 15 Alpha
Mya VanWestern, Libero/DS, Kairos Elite 15 Alpha
Bracket Champion: Kairos Elite 16 Alpha
Most Outstanding Player: Madelynn Henry, Outside Hitter, Kairos Elite 16 Alpha
Kya Behr, Setter, Fight Club 16-1
Tatelyn Brandsma, Setter, Colorado Juniors 16 Kaleena
Cadence Franz, Setter, South County 16 Darice
Liliana Gould, Middle Blocker, Elevation 16 Peak
Abby Gruber, Middle Blocker, Kairos Elite 16 Alpha
Suttyn Harris, Outside Hitter, Fight Club 16-1
Morgan Holloman, Middle Blocker, Colorado Juniors 16 Kaleena
Kamryn Jackson, Opposite Hitter, Oklahoma Charge 16 UA
Sienna Thatcher, Outside Hitter, NORCO 15 Black
Lily Van Hal, Setter, Kairos Elite 16 Alpha
Catherine Brinkman, Opposite Hitter, Club V 16 Ren Kris
Bracket Champion: Idaho Crush 17 Bower
Most Outstanding Player: Tenesyn Frye, Setter, Idaho Crush 17 Bower
Beus Bellamie, Outside Hitter, Idaho Crush 17 Bower
Anna Blamires, Opposite Hitter, Colorado Juniors 17 Kevin
Bailey Boeve, Middle Blocker, MVP United 17 Red
Lillian Edwards, Outside Hitter, Colorado Juniors 17 Jayne
Karen Fetzer, Outside Hitter, NORCO 17 Black
Alivia Eikenberg, Outside Hitter, Front Range 17-1 Black
Chloe Elarton, Setter, Colorado Juniors 17 Kevin
Brooklyn Hardy, Middle Blocker, Idaho Crush 17 Bower
Maggie Meister, Libero/DS, Kairos Elite 17 Alpha
Erika Sayer, Middle Blocker, Colorado Juniors 17 Kevin
Ella Wismer, Middle Blocker, Club V 17 Ren Kyle
Kairos Alpha 16's get in the swing, polish off comeback in 16 Elite title match at Colorado Challenge
by Kyle Koso
When it came to the task of achieving a major comeback Monday at the Colorado Challenge, good news just didn’t seem to be in the cards for the Kairos Alpha 16 team.
But those who doubted clearly didn’t know what they were dealing with.
Down a set to Fight Club in the 16 Elite title match and trailing 19-17 in Set 2, Kairos finally got an offensive hammer unleashed before blitzing to the finish, taking home a 17-25, 25-20, 15-8 victory to be one of three teams from the South Dakota program to prevail in the five Elite divisions.
“We’d come off a pretty emotional three-setter in the semifinals, and we were flat in the first set, not playing the way we could be playing,” said Alpha head coach Haylee Vosler. “We got down in the second set; we had to trust our training. It’s the championship match, so don’t go home on a nine-hour ride with any regrets. Go ball out; trust each other, and you could see how it ended the second and went through the third set.”
That semifinal win over NORCO Black was indeed a grinder at 25-22, 19-25, 19-17, and Fight Club flexed a variety of options with outstanding setter work by Kya Behr and authoritative kills by Suttyn Harris and Bella Cook. But at that 19-17 juncture in Set 2, Madelynn Henry simply took over with a series of unstoppable shots, along with an ace to finish off the set.
“She’s very good at taking over a game. She understands what needs to happen, and she’s not afraid to say, put the ball in my hands,” Vosler added. “It’s crucial for us to have that player, and it builds confidence in other players that they will be good to go, too.”
Henry got the first point in Set 3 as Kairos pulled ahead, 6-2, but Sofia Simic banged home a couple kills as the set tightened to a 7-6 lead for Kairos. Big swings from Lauren Venenga got Kairos moving again, with the match ending on a kill by Henry.
“We came back because we trusted. We knew we could get the pass up and make sure we had good options in the front row, and we wanted it really bad,” Henry said. “I had some opportunities to go down the line, and again, there were really great passes out of serve receive. That three-set match we had before was just crazy, and we knew we could fight and play it out.”
Another stellar light for Kairos was Abby Gruber, who always seemed to be in the right spot for a block or timely swing, especially in the final two sets.
“We wanted it so badly; we went 0-2 the first day, but this team knows how to fight back,” Gruber said. “We didn’t know the rotations we really wanted for this tournament; we picked one, stuck to it and got the win. I can get pretty shaky, but my adrenalin was pumping and I wanted this badly. I wasn’t that nervous, and I trusted my training.”
Kairos Alpha won the 15 Elite (see earlier story), and the club also prevailed at 14 Elite, with Kairos Alpha topping Colorado Juniors-Sarah by a score of 25-22, 20-25, 15-13.
Time (out) to shine -- Kairos Alpha takes a moment or two before storming to 15 Elite title at Colorado Challenge
by Kyle Koso
Make the most of your time – that’s advice that never goes out of style.
Make the most of your timeouts – pretty wise strategy in volleyball as well.
For the Kairos 15 Alpha, slow starts threatened to stall the South Dakota team in the 15 Elite championship match at the Colorado Challenge on Monday, but head coach Max Curran pulled his troops aside in Sets 1 and 2 and got them pulling together in the right direction. Kairos proceeded with clarity and pocketed the title, moving past NORCO 15 Black 25-21, 25-13 as Kairos won three of the five Elite brackets at the tournament, produced by Triple Crown Sports and Colorado Juniors VBC.
The 15’s fell behind NORCO 7-3 in Set 1 after an ace from Katie St. Jean, but pulled ahead after a timeout and kept it close until Ruthie Robinson went wild in the final stretches with blocks and kills that sealed the set. And in Set 2, Kairos fell behind 8-3 before finding its rhythm again, with great serves and timely hits from Katie McKay making all the difference at the finish line.
“We have a bit of a bad habit, starting slow and waiting to turn things on. We talked about what we’ve trained for in practice and to work hard,” Curran said. “Getting the serves in was another big part of it.
“(Robinson) is a big-time player who loves the big moments. We knew she could block like that, we just hadn’t seen it yet. She came on strong, a phenomenal and special player.”
A big solo block by Robinson gave Kairos a 21-19 lead in Set 1; after an ace from teammate Ivy Freeseman, Robinson again handled a big block on her own to make it 23-21, and she capped the set with a huge kill after another ace, this time from Jersie Melcher.
“I want to do everything I can for my team to get the point; I work so hard on my blocking. It feels so good to get in someone’s face and block that ball,” Robinson said. “I’m used to getting (solo blocks); I’ve played with a setter who’s shorter than me, so I’m used to when it happens by myself. We had a lot of energy and adrenalin going through our brains all weekend, and we were excited to finish it off.”
Back-to-back kills from Maggie McGuire in Set 2 brought Kairos ahead 10-9, and there wasn’t much doubt in the result from there on out. Steering the ship with calm and confidence was setter Josalyn Samuels, who actually is an 8th-grader playing up with the 15’s. She has enough length to be very useful on defense at the net, and she always seemed to get the ball to her hitters with just the right angle and height.
“We had to refocus, on our passing so we could get the sets right and terminate the ball. Score more points off the things we can control,” Samuels said. “Being calm is something that is very important and I think about all the time. When my team sees me … if I’m freaking out, my team will be wondering what’s going to happen. If I’m calm, they’ll be relaxed and play better.
“Ruthie is super fun to play with; she had so much energy and can really hit the ball. It’s fun to set her and I’m very glad she’s on our team.”
“There are some great teams here; we saw them (Sunday) and today, and we always hoped to go maybe top two,” Curran said. “To win it was awesome, especially it being our first tournament of the year.”
by Sam Haimann
While the nation-wide, super polar vortex of doom was busy delivering, hopefully, the last of its sting outside, Championship bracket play for the Elite Division inside the NORCO Volleyball facility delivered messages of stone-cold intention for the coming qualification season for National Championship tournament hopefuls to conclude the action at the Triple Crown Colorado Challenge.
We have a quick rundown of the Champions’ run to the top of the Podium ahead of our All-Tournament picks, along with more post event coverage later this week!
Kairos Elite 15 Alpha proved themselves to be a fully fortified unit in the early stages of the season. Making the arduous trek from Sioux Falls, SD, to produce a strong, 7-win tournament card, falling just once, en route to claiming the Championship bracket title with a dominant flourish.
Running through a tough trio of Rocky Mountain Region squads in the knockout round to hoist the Championship hardware, Kairos picked apart Colorado Juniors 15 Jen, Front Range 15-1 Black, and NORCO 15 Black, back-to-back-back, fully vesting their championship credential.
This is a fun, well-disciplined team, that serves tough, and has more than a little grit in their DNA; they will be an interesting group to keep an eye on come qualification season.
The South Dakotan contingent heading back to Sioux Falls carrying the Kairos Elite squads that made the trip to Colorado this weekend will be carrying double hardware home, as the program’s 16 Alpha side showcased a resilient brand of volleyball, prevailing in back-to-back three-set bouts to double up for Kairos.
Surviving a gritty, 19-17 third set with NORCO 16 Black in the semifinals had heart rates buzzing as a finals matchup with Fight Club 16-1 loomed. But don’t talk to Fight Club supporters about cardio. Their semifinal match with Colorado Juniors 16 Kaleena began with a knockdown, drag out first set that went to 31-29 for resolution with the decision going to Fight Club before Colorado Juniors leveled in the second in a win-by-two scenario forcing a deciding set, which was comparatively less dramatic, earning a luxurious six-point margin of victory to shuffle into the title bout.
Kairos would find themselves trailing after the opening frame, but roared back to reverse sweep Fight Club to strike gold showcasing a very similar play style as their younger sisters on 15 Alpha: gritty, and a little hard-nosed, coming all the way back from an 0-2 start to their tournament, winning five of their last six contests to collect the 15 Elite crown.
In a word: Crushed.
It was about as clean a weekend performance as you could hope for if you were a supporter of Idaho Crush 17 Bower, as the high-flying, Orange-clad contingent collected nine wins out of nine, conceding only two sets across three rounds of play, closing with seven consecutive straight-set victories.
Rebounding from a two-touchdown set one loss to NORCO 17 Black back in round one, ID Crush claimed 16 straight sets, including a pair of explosive contests with Colorado Juniors 17 Kevin, the latter of which earned them the 17 Elite championship title. ID Crush doubled up on championship bracket semifinalists MVP 17 Red, and Colorado Juniors, along with site hosts NORCO over the weekend’s action, solidifying their claim to the bracket title.
This Idaho Crush group has balance across the board, with a top-notch signal caller at the helm of an offensive unit that can operate at a high pace when in system, and a defensive corps that can produce strings of consistent ball control, at and across the net, as well as in the second level.
While the season is still early, seeds planted in January, and curated through the spring, can bear fruit for the celebrations of the summer.
***All-Tournament Team picks coming tomorrow!***
by Sam Haimann
After another chilly day of competition, the Triple Crown Colorado Challenge has its knockout round phase set! The competition inside the NORCO blew the doors open in the afternoon, with in-region sides making the most of home court familiarity, to the tune of championship bracket appearances aplenty.
Today’s Supernova and Shooting Star picks are predominantly notable performers who just missed out on Championship bracket play, and are being recognized for their efforts over the first two days of this weekend’s action. Championship bracket qualifying sides will have most of their standout athletes highlighted in our All-Tournament Teams!
The intimate 15 Elite field has its Championship bracket solidified, with Front Range 15-1 Black and Idaho Crush 15 Bower earning passage directly into the semifinal round of the six-team Championship bracket after finishing atop their respective pools on day two.
Kairos 15 Alpha and Colorado Juniors 15 Jen will meet for the chance to tango with Front Range, while NORCO 15 Black, who turned in the only 3-0/6-0 mark on the day in the 15 Elite ranks, and South County 15 Sarah have a date scheduled to decide who will face off with Idaho Crush.
Camble Booth, Outside/Opposite Hitter/ Middle Blocker, Colorado Juniors 15 Shannon
A versatile attacker who can accelerate through the approach/hitting process, showing off a live arm with consistent scoring capabilities.
Jillian Deatherage, Middle Blocker, Idaho Crush 15 Bower
A consistent, heavy-armed presence minding the middle of the ID Crush front line working pin-to-pin.
Landry Roberts, Outside Hitter, Colorado Juniors 15 Jen
A consistent target on the left side, and out of the back row Roberts is a solid six-rotation player who displays the capacity to handle to volume of outlet attacking duties as she continues to develop her game.
Harper Scott, Libero/DS, Colorado Juniors 15 Shannon
A determined defensive specialist patrolling the backline for Colorado Juniors who maintains mobility on defensive chances, and balance in serve receive.
Brooke Zink, Setter, NORCO 15 Black
A mindful presence while facilitating the NORCO offense, highlighted by clean release mechanics, and efficient footwork moving in and out of plays.
It was a fairly straight forward affair in the 16 Elite division on day two, with gold-eligible pool winners all collecting the three wins available to each of them, with group leaders NORCO 16 Black and Club V Red Kris sweeping their respective trio of matches with 3-0/6-0 entries in their tournament ledger.
Fight Club 16-1 made the leap from the fourth seed in their day two pool, posting three wins of their own to earn the top advancing position into the Championship bracket, leap-frogging in front of Kairos 16 Alpha, who also earned their place in the Championship bracket, sweeping Rocky Elite 16 National and Front Range 16-1 Black to filter up.
Oklahoma Charge bounced back from a match one defeat to eventual group winners Colorado Juniors 16 Kaleena overcoming Juggernaut 16 National-1 in t here sets to close out their round, and earn a spot in the Championship bracket.
Makaiya Bufford, Middle Blocker, Relentless VBC 16 Relentless
Displaying the drive and energy needed for the role, Bufford is a persistent option working hard to maintain availability on attacking chances to keep the wide attacking channels open.
Naomi Decker, Setter, Arete VBC 16s
An all-around solid athlete, Decker has a solid, yet deft touch on the ball, controlling second contacts consistently as a result of well-discipled footwork to the ball.
Katie Gieske, Middle Blocker, Colorado Juniors 16 Abbie
Doing the pin-to-pin dirty work in the middle of the Colorado Juniors net, Gieske churns through both offensive and defensive play sequences on and off the ball.
Taryn Hall, Libero/DS, Colorado Springs Altitude 16 Navy
Sporting notable platform control, and the willingness to pursue any errant touch, Hall is a dogged, defensive specialist.
Avery Seley, Setter, Excel Northwest 16 Lux
Standing out as a decisive signal caller, Seley can flick the ball around the floor with a mindful purpose intent on managing the match and put hitters in a position to be successful.
Hosts NORCO 17 Black draw top seeded Idaho Crush 17 Bower in the quarterfinals, after yielding to a persistent Kairos 17 Alpha side who earned the tie-breaking nod in their second round robin of the weekend; ID Crush swagger into the knockout round on the heels of a clinical second round performance, turning in a pair of sweeps, facing a win-by-two scenario only once, accompanied from their round two pool into the gold bracket, by Colorado Juniors 17 Jayne.
MVP 17 Red was just as thorough on day two, punching their ticket into the gold bracket with a 3-0/6-0 mark, setting the pace in their pool, followed closely by Front Range 17-1 Black, as the pair controlled the group, with no deciding sets necessary for the quartet.
Colorado Juniors 17 Kevin dominated their day two pool, submitting three sweeps, with no sets reaching 20 points for the opponents, with half of those sets not going past ten points, drawn into the quarterfinals with Front Range; Club V 17 Ren Kyle had the two wins needed for a place in the gold bracket quarters, having already topped NORCO 17 Blue and Rocky Elite 17 National before their brief meeting with the pool winners. Club V will meet MVP in the only gold bracket quarterfinal bout to not feature a team representing the Rocky Mountain Region.
Carly Dormanen, Libero/DS, Volt 17 Open
A balanced defender with an accurate touch off the platform, covering a wide swath of court to maintain a tidy back court for Volt.
Addison Humphrey, Setter, Colorado Volleyball Association 17 Black
Showcasing solid footwork around the floor, flashing a clean release with the ball in her hands, the CVA signal caller is a capable floor general.
Kaylie Jensen, Middle Blocker, Colorado Juniors 17 Jayne
An on-time hitter cycling through the central attacking routes, with an assertive arm that can bust blocks to score.
Candela Ruano-Fiuza, Setter, Elevation 17 Peak
An athletic southpaw pulling the strings of the Peak offense, Ruano-Fiuza is a hard worker moving about the court managing the setting duties for Elevation.
Aliah Snider, Setter, Momentum 18-1 Jen
Sporting a polished release, and athletic movements around the floor directing traffic, Snider is adept at setting against the grain with precision to find an open hitter.
Emme Carwin, Libero/DS, Relentless VBC 17-Relentless
Kennedy Checo, Middle Blocker, Colorado Volleyball Association 17 Black
Kate Hayhurst, Opposite Hitter, Idaho Crush 17 Bower
Brenna Kelly, Outside Hitter, Momentum 18-1 Jen
Kylie Speer, Outside Hitter, Colorado Skyline Juniors 17 Royal
Elevation Peak 14's serve up plenty of trouble in impressive pool play victory at Colorado Challenge
by Kyle Koso
When someone starts off a volleyball match confounding the other side with darting, daring serves, you can’t help but think, I bet that is relevant again later on.
Saori Yamamoto’s wicked lefty serves gave the Elevation Peak team an early edge Sunday against undefeated Kairos Alpha in the 14 Elite bracket of the Colorado Challenge, and she troubled the opposition for one more critical stretch in Set 3. It played a huge role in Elevation securing a 25-20, 22-25, 15-7 victory, with Kairos losing its first two sets of the entire tournament in the match.
From the Denver suburb of Centennial, Elevation earned a spot in the Silver bracket for Monday’s championship sequence, while Kairos (Sioux Falls, SD) prevailed in the tiebreakers and will play in the top bracket.
Elevation got effective serving from much of the roster, with back-to-back aces from Sahara Hernandez opening up a 23-16 lead in Set 1. That advantage was crucial because the ticking time bomb of kill swings from Julia Masselink started to go off for Kairos, with Elevation gamely hanging tough to secure the Set 1 win.
“Our energy changed the whole thing. When we have good energy, we play well and support each other and seem to play well,” Yamamoto said. “I served for my team; when I do that I feel better for myself and everyone seems to play better. We always practice our serves and pride ourselves with that.”
Elevation didn’t waste opportunities when those serves got Kairos scrambling, as powerful kills came off the swings of Raya Thompson, Reese Millar and Yanna Griffin, among others. Millar got the final point in Set 1 and three early points in the final set, while Thompson shook off a hard fall late in Set 3 for important kills, including a slick topspin placement shot that made it 13-7.
“This is such a great team; we are able to manage it all and take on the pressure,” Thompson said. “I was pretty mad about the fall, and how far her foot was under the net, but I was really focused on winning and taking on a big team. We were brave; they had a lot of big hitters over there.”
Kairos got great work from liber Devi McCarty and come other offensive fireworks from Elsa Basel, but Elevation managed to hold off their foes by executing the strategy desired by head coach Matt Burrell.
“I was trying to put my bigger blocker on (Masselink); they are pretty consistent with how they start their line so I could get the matchup,“ Burrell said. “We had the game plan, shifting the defense, still hard to deal with her. We attacked the setter best we could, she’s a phenomenal athlete. We wanted to get them out of system, figured we’d have a chance then along with serving it tough.
“We are a tough serving team when we are on. We’re not the biggest, but we can be pretty powerful from the service line.”
Club V, Volt and Five Star will join Kairos in the championship bracket; Elevation will start Monday’s play against NORCO Black.
by Sam Haimann
The Holidays may be over, but the weather outside Northern Colorado Juniors’ immaculate practice/competition facility, as well as around the country, has remained frightful. With the air temperature hovering around -10 degrees outside at the start of the day, stop number two on the Colorado Tournament Series kicked off.
With the weekend’s competition utilizing a three-day format, today’s top two finishers in each pool will filter up to remain in contention for a place in Monday’s knockout round gold bracket, with Sunday’s reseeded round robin making the final cuts.
The only unbeaten side from day one in the 15 Elite ranks came from one of the two, three-team pools, that played the rarer, day-one crossover contest, in the form of Elevation 15 Peak, who squared up with South County 15 Sarah, the second three-team pool winner, in a crossover duel for round two seeding purposes, earning the decision following a feature-length bout to wrap their day.
Rocky Elite 15 National soared from the fourth seed in pool two, to earn passage into round two’s top group, joining pool leaders Idaho Crush 15 Bower as the two sides to remain gold bracket eligible.
Parity was the theme in the 16 Elite ranks, as nearly every group in round one either required a tie breaker to determine promotion and relegation, or was, seemingly, perfectly balanced.
Home team NORCO 16 Black maintained a superior set percentage differential over Intermountain Region reps Club V 16 Run Kris to earn promotion into round two’s gold-eligible pool play groups. Pool two would see South County 16 Daricefollow suit, holding the scant statistical advantage, only on point differential, over Elevation 16 Peak.
Oklahoma Charge 16 UA, Colorado Elite 16 Jake, and Colorado Juniors 16 Abbie led their respective groups to first place finishes, retaining their seeding into round two, with Front Range 16-2 Red, Juggernaut 16 National 1, and Fight Club 16-1 nipping at the heels of their respective group leaders
The only group that held no ties, was the only three-team pool in the 16 Elite division, in which Rocky Elite 16 National and Excel Northwest 16-1 Lux finished one-two.
Top seeded Idaho Crush 17 Bower corralled three wins, topping hosts NORCO 17 Black, and Colorado Juniors 17 Kevinin back-to-back duels to close out their opening round still atop the field. The defeat demoted Colorado Juniors out of the running for a place in the knockout round’s gold bracket, while NORCO found their way out of a messy three-way 1-2 tie, earning the nod over Colorado Juniors by a slim point percentage differential.
Colorado Volleyball Association 17 Black turned in the only unblemished scorecard of the day in the 17 Elite field, sweeping their way past Momentum 17 Riley, and River City Juniors 17 Navy
Front Range 17-1 Black took a pair of contests to deciding sets, against Club V 17 Ren Kyle and Kairos 17 Alpha, ultimately prevailing in both, en route to picking up all three wins on the day, finishing atop group two. As did South County 18 Josh, posting three wins out three, and Volt 17 Open, who claimed a pair of wins, topping the only three-team group in the 17 Elite field.
Momentum 18 Jen rose above the trio of 17U squads seeded above them in pool five, shutting down Elevation 17 Peak in three sets to clinch the group in their final match of the day.
***A double dip of Supernovas and Shooting Star player highlights coming tomorrow!***
Colorado Volleyball Association 17 Black gets loose, doesn't lose as Colorado Challenge event kicks off
by Kyle Koso
If the Colorado Volleyball Association 17 Black team had a panic gene, there were plenty of moments the group might have wobbled in the face of competition Saturday at the Triple Crown Colorado Challenge.
But it looks like the CVA squad is more likely hard-wired for success.
CVA capped a 3-0 start in pool play at the NORCO facility with a hard-earned 27-25, 25-20 victory over River City (Neb.), ultimately unleashing its physical strengths and hustle enough to fight off a very determined opponent. River City, which originally planned on playing in the Club Division before agreeing to move up, held leads of 11-4 and 24-22 in Set 1.
CVA (based in Englewood, Colo.) stayed in range as its rangy group athletes applied pressure, especially at the net. Kai Kofoed-Cooke had three critical kills late in the set, which was capped off by an ace from Josephine Abeyta. With the victory, CVA joined Front Range Black and Idaho Crush as the only teams at 17 Elite to go through Saturday unscathed.
“I had faith in my team and just tried to build them up, which they were doing for me. It was nice to see everyone supporting each other,” said Addison Humphrey (Castle View HS), who had a series of kills in Set 1 that helped with the comeback and was part of the block with Cooke that closed the match. “I’m excited to see the competition (Sunday) and I think can reach the level of the Power Pool teams. I do love our athletic potential, and it’s maybe the best part of our team. It took a while because we were just off, but it’s not an excuse because we should be that way all the time.”
CVA made it a bit easier for itself in Set 2, taking a 13-9 lead, but River City got it back to 19-19 with impressive plays galore, often finding just the right spot to direct an easy push of the ball. An improvised backward tip shot by Reese Brgoch (Lutheran HS) gave CVA a 20-19 lead and an ace from Cooke (Chaparral HS) set up the concluding point.
“We got better at focusing on the things that needed to get done. At first, we were overdoing it and got super tense, but once we took a deep breath we came back and played out game,” Cooke said. “We had fun together and had high energy and high communication. I’m at a new club now, ready for improvement, and hopefully on the way to getting way stronger. Going into this we had a feeling we’d do well; at the end of it, how we played and the fun we had together, it makes up super close.”
CVA head coach Shawn Copple said this year’s team has seven returners and four newcomers, with Cooke adding a degree of muscle and terminal hitting that can elevate the profile and potential of the squad.
“We’ve been working hard with all of them on taking big swings and not worrying about the consequences, and early on we gave up some points with that. River City did a very good job defensively, but when some of those swings went in, we made out way,” he said. “The middles did a really good job, too. We didn’t have our best today, and honestly played a lot better last weekend. But to battle like we did today and not give up or get chippy with each other, that will go a long ways.
“I give a lot of credit to the group from last year; the product they put on makes other kids want to come over. Kai saw that, wants to be a part of it, and we have an actual hammer to go with the other outsides, who hit it great along with our middles.”
14 ELITE — Also out of the morning wave, the 14 Elite had a handful of teams go 3-0 on Saturday: Club V, Colorado Juniors-Sarah, Elevation Peak, Kairos and NORCO Black.
13 ELITE — This group of unbeaten groups includes two teams from Colorado Juniors (Mal and Tammy), along with River City Navy.
WINDSOR, Colo. — For the 18-1 squad at Premier Volleyball Club (Fort Collins), the record will show a sweep of six contests last weekend at the Triple Crown Avalanche Havoc, part of its Colorado Tournament Series with final matches held at the Power2Play complex.
But that didn’t mean Premier swooped through the competition without a few challenges, as it took three sets to get past the Believe 18’s in the semifinals before outlasting a tough, tricky lineup from the FUNdamentals 18’s, 25-22, 22-25, 15-11, in Sunday’s title match.
Just walking the court, the Premier side seemed to have the physical advantage over FUNdamentals, and there was no particular surprise when Alexis Townsend’s kill for Premier made it 13-8 in Set 1. But FUNdamentals caught fire, took the lead, and made it clear that their hustle and impressive serving punch from Kyla Adams and Kendall Morrison would don’t go away quietly.
Premier came back to win the set but came up short in Set 2, forcing the title match to its full length.
“They are very scrappy, and it’s the type of team that will lull you into making your own mistakes,” said Premier coach Andy Gavaldon. “This being our first tournament this was our first bit of adversity, so we got back down to the basics, passing and communicating, and let our skills take over by the very end.
“We’ve got some good, skilled players at each position, and one aspect isn’t working well, we have other places to go to. We are well-rounded, and it will be fun coaching this team.”
Premier could certainly celebrate how it handled having to play a third set, as the lineup jumped to a 7-1 lead. A well-played assist from Avery Schneider for a kill off the swing of Kaitlynn Dean made it 10-4; FUNdamentals then answered with one more push, drawing closer at 11-7 on a kill from Ainsley Lynett.
With Adams making excellent shots, the lead got tight one last time, at 14-11, but Premier finished the debate as Schneider found Townsend for the final point.
“We had to work and find where they weren’t on the court, the placement. We went to the corners, and when they got to our hitting, we tried tipping and that seemed to work,” said Schneider, a senior at Roosevelt High School. “I feel more aggressive when I’m hitting and can actually score points, but I love setting. The feeling of allowing a hitter to get a kill is pretty much my favorite.”
“As a team, we talked about going short if they were staying back … that’s a very scrappy team, and we had to just get after it and out the ball down,” said Townsend, a junior at Fort Collins High School. “We have players who can move in and out if we get in a rut, and we are good at grinding it out.”
Avery May came through with some important aces for Premier.
by Kyle Koso
Hotly contested points, no overwhelming swings of momentum, each team looking more than capable of holding up under the stress – not much separated the Believe 17’s from the San Luis Valley 17’s on Sunday.
That meant the Gold Division championship at the Bighorn Bash (part of Triple Crown’s Colorado Tournament Series) would test the depth of each roster, and the Believe 17’s had multiple athletes in proper position for the big points, sending the team to a 25-23, 24-26, 15-8 victory at the NORCO courts in Loveland.
The teams went three sets as well on Saturday to kick off the tourney (Believe won that one, 19-25, 25-20, 15-8), with Sunday’s final turning on kills from Nicole Sparks, Renee Sobania, Bella Tedrow and Avery Smith in the third set to build an 8-6 lead up to 14-8. The finishing blow was a scorched serve by Sobania that deflected hard to the right for an ace.
One other thing the full Believe roster did well was stick together during its one genuine moment of struggle, when a cluster of errors sent San Luis up, 21-16, in the second set. A couple of timeouts helped Believe (from Greenwood Village, CO) actually tie it back up at 22-all and 24-all, before San Luis secured the set on an ace from Sydney Jackson.
“We were talking about putting the pressure back on them and executing our game plan,” said Believe coach Makenzi Langer. “Back in that game, (San Luis) was playing it more safe, setting it over the net instead of attacking, and I kept telling our kids, if you go for it, I’m not going to be upset. You will see those errors, but we rallied back – nothing changes, stick to the game plan.”
“We try to focus on one point at a time, not to think we are out of this,” said Smith, a junior at Chaparral High School. “We chip away slowly. We really wanted to win; we were focused on our jobs and doing what we’ve known to do this entire season. It’s what we trained for.”
San Luis (Alamosa, CO) had a 22-20 lead in the first set, but it slipped away on a couple late slip-ups despite several great swings throughout the set by Jackson. A nice block from Charley Higham gave San Luis a 20-16 lead in Set 2, and an ace from setter Morgan Ortega pushed the lead to five points.
Sobania, a junior at Regis Jesuit, is one of several undersized hitters for Believe, but her persistence was rewarded with important points throughout, with a big kill to make it 11-6 in the third set.
“We stay positive and encourage each other,” she said. “Everyone is very supportive. Forget about it, move on, next ball. I can get frustrated sometimes, so it’s awesome to have such a supportive team.
“One thing Believe teaches, is how to hit with shot selection. I can hit a lot of different types of shots, and that’s why this is one of my favorite places I’ve played at. It’s helped me be successful.”
“Timing helps; we work with the setters a lot in practice to get that timing down, and I’ve been working on my vertical,” Smith added. “But we do focus on being a defensive and rallying team, since we know we aren’t super tall, and that’s how we come out on top a lot of times.”
Langer saluted her team’s depth and willingness to stay aggressive even as they tackle different positions and arguably don’t get to settle into specific roles, like most teams.
“We don’t have a true middle, we have one kid, a 15-year-old there, and a setter who jumps in there sometimes,” Langer said. “We have attackers who can hit on the outside, in the middle, on the right, and run all these different routes. It puts pressure on teams; as well as being great defensively and in serve-receive, we out-rally teams all the time.”
In the Pikes Peak Division, NORCO’s 14-2 took first place, with the NORCO 13-1 team winning the Longs Peak Division. The San Luis VBC 14’s won the Horsetooth Division.
COLORADO TOURNAMENT SERIES – This event wrapped up the four-tournament schedule for the CTS, introduced to the regional volleyball market as a way to help clubs evolve the talent on their rosters backed by Triple Crown’s insight and expertise in event production.
From the 175 teams that played in 2022, more than 1,000 athletes suited up for matches at the NORCO facility.
“Getting this tournament series up and off the ground was a labor of love. This was my first time event directing, and I didn’t get everything right but was lucky to be surrounded with great support from my division,” said CTS director Sarah Dannettell. “The relationships I gained with clubs and directors that supported CTS have been incredible. Seeing familiar smiling faces of coaches and players in this last one who were truly excited to be playing in a Triple Crown event made all the work and effort worth it.
“I got the opportunity to watch a match between a 13’s team and a 14’s team this past weekend where the final score was 32-30. The joy and excitement that the teams and parents had during the nailbiter gave me full body chills … giving all caliber of players the opportunity to have those types of memories.”