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Castle View's journey to winning the Class 5A state volleyball championship was full of doubts and tribulations, but like a Hallmark movie, there was a magical, happy ending.
The Sabercats ended a long, suspenseful Nov. 11 by defeating Cherry Creek 3-2 to capture the title at the state volleyball championships Nov. 10-11 at the Denver Coliseum.
“It feels amazing,” senior outside hitter Kate Menz said. “We didn't think we had a chance.”
Castle View, the tournament's third seed, saw its chances dimmed after Rock Canyon defeated the Sabercats, 3-2, in the first of two pool-play matches on Nov. 10. The Sabercats downed Coronado 3-1 after the loss, but Rock Canyon was in position to advance to the semifinals with a win over Coronado on Nov. 11.
“I was wondering what does it takes to win the state championship?” Castle View coach Scott Dowis said. “I mean, I've had some good teams but this was the best one I've ever coached. I knew our odds were slim that Coronado was going to beat Rock Canyon.”
Coronado, however, did defeat Rock Canyon, 3-2, to force a three-team, one-set playoff to see which team would move onto the semifinals. The Jaguars eliminated Coronado, and after a long morning wait, Castle View edged Rock Canyon, 25-22, to regain tournament life.
Castle View (25-5) downed defending 5A state champion Fossil Ridge 3-2 in the semifinals. The Sabercats won 25-16, 20-25, 25-23, 20-25, 15-8.
In the title game, Castle View won the first two sets 25-21 and 25-18 but Cherry Creek came back with two 25-17 victories to force a deciding fifth set for the state title. The Sabercats won that set, 15-13.
“We came into this morning (Nov. 11) praying that we would even get to play again and that Coronado would beat Rock Canyon,” Menz said. “And then we ended up getting the bye and beat Rock Canyon in the tiebreaker. Then we beat Fossil Ridge in five, which was only the fifth five-set match we had won all year. And then we won in five again.
“We pulled through in the fifth set against Creek. My feeling was that we're going to win. We wanted to be aggressive. I would rather go down strong hitting the ball.”
Menz was one of the determined players as Castle View took a 5-2 lead and held a 14-9 advantage when the Bruins reeled off four straight points, but the Sabercats won the championship when a return by the Bruins went into the net.
“We changed our lineup in the fifth set, we rotated around and put Kate left front,” Dowis said. “We wanted to put Kate up front so she would get a lot of opportunities.”
Menz had four kills in the third set but she had plenty of help up front in the 11 sets played by the Sabercats on Nov. 11.
Menz had 38 kills on the final day and 73 in 20 sets during the tournament. Senior Holly Schmidt had 66 kills while two other seniors, Laney Hershiser and Ashley Joseph, also contributed.
Senior Lauren Lowry had 62 assists against Creek and sophomore sister Leanne had 34 digs. For the entire tournament, Lauren had 226 assists and Leanne 154 digs.
“We get off to good starts and let teams back in,” Dowis said. “That's kind of been our MO. We're not perfect but we always seemed to find a way. It was awesome these girls were able to pull it out. This field was deep. There were so many good teams. It was an honor to win. It wasn't easy but we found a way to win it. It was pretty impressive — these girls were such a group.”
Castle View had eight seniors on its roster, which made the title more special.
“This group of seniors has really put a lot into this,” Dowis said. “These girls are really close and to go out this way and have this memory that they will have forever is pretty awesome.”
But for a while, Rock Canyon looked as if it might spoil any fond memories for Castle View after senior Keely Davis had 38 of the team's 63 kills in the win over the Sabercats.
Rock Canyon, however, lost to Coronado 3-2 but beat the Cougars 25-20 in the first tiebreaker before losing to Castle View to end the season with a 20-9 record.
“I'm very proud of the girls,” said Rock Canyon coach Angela Nylund-Hanson. “The girls fought hard. To come in as the 10th 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.”
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