Prep volleyball: Coal Ridge looks to keep cool at state
CLASS 3A STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Who: Coal Ridge High School
Where: Denver Coliseum, Denver
When: Friday and Saturday
Matchups: Coal Ridge vs. Valley, 11 a.m. Friday; Coal Ridge vs. Platte Valley, 11 a.m. Saturday. Championship play begins immediately after the completion of pool play.
PEACH VALLEY — Going to the Class 3A State Championships this time around doesn’t seem like such an intimidating thing to the Coal Ridge High school volleyball team. At least, that’s how the Titans seem to feel.
“Yesterday, our girls acknowledged that we’ve been there and it’s time to be more than just happy to be there,” Coal Ridge coach Scott Black said. “Now they know what to expect.”
Of course, the Titans expected the extra noise, the high ceilings and the beefed-up competition when the tournament takes place Friday and Saturday at the Denver Coliseum. Hearing about it and experiencing it can be completely different things, however, and the Titans wound up being swept by Holy Family and Platte Valley during pool play.
This year, thanks to that extra experience, Coal Ridge feels that a better showing at the state tournament, along with the possibility of making it into the tournament’s championship bracket, isn’t out of the question.
“Last year, we went into the tournament and played timid,” senior defensive specialist and libero Leah Kanakaraj said. “It was a lot bigger and a lot louder, and it was hard to adjust to that setting. Plus we were playing a lot better teams than what we were used to.
“There were even some of our teammates who were like, ‘Wow. This is so big!’” Kanakaraj added. “Hopefully this year, we’ll have gotten that out of our system.”
The Titans (19-6) will have to do it in a hurry. They’re in Pool III of the tournament, which includes Valley (23-2) and Platte Valley (17-8) of the ultra-strong Patriot League. The Vikings, who made it to the 3A semifinals last season, will open tournament play against the Titans at 11 a.m. Friday.
Coal Ridge, however, hasn’t exactly played a cream-puff schedule on their way to their second straight state tournament appearance and first 3A Western Slope League volleyball title. Five of the Titans’ six losses have come to Class 4A teams, with four of them — Montrose, Pueblo West, Berthoud and Battle Mountain — making up one-third of the 12-team Class 4A state tournament. The other came to Class 2A Paonia, which heads into the 2A State Championships with a 25-0 record.
“We can’t go in there playing timid or nervous,” senior setter Maggie Bell said. “That’s the way we went into our match against Battle Mountain, and it didn’t turn out so well. We have a great chance if we play well.”
To be sure, Coal Ridge has seven seniors on this year’s squad who bring that state-tournament experience back to Denver. Two of the Titans’ biggest weapons are middle hitters Kaitlyn Detlefsen and Britni Allen, who at 5-foot-11 and 6-0, respectively, bring height along with their hitting power.
The Titans also showed their depth during their regional-tournament victories against St. Mary’s Academy and Eagle Ridge Academy. Kanakaraj, who has anchored the Titans’ defensive back line, was absent this past weekend attending her brother’s wedding in New York. Black admitted that each person on the roster can play three different positions if need be, adding some extra flexibility.
And Black, along with the rest of the Titans, hopes that will pay off in Denver this weekend.
“If we play our best, we can play with anybody,” the coach said. “And when we have lost, we haven’t lost to anybody bad. So I think we can play with anyone. I really believe that.”
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