State volleyball: Titans don’t plan to be timid
PEACH VALLEY — There won’t be a deer-in-the-headlights look in the eyes of the Coal Ridge High School volleyball players this weekend. At least, that’s what Scott Black hopes.
The Titans’ coach has done everything he could to acclimate his team to the Denver Coliseum atmosphere before it gets there. They’ve watched film, they’ve gone over their check-in procedures, and they even scrimmaged each other with music blaring in the gym, forcing the players to loudly communicate with each other on the court.
That had some setbacks, though.
“Some of them started dancing,” Black said, laughing. “That wasn’t quite what I was hoping for, but that’s OK. They were having fun, and that’s what this time of year is about.”
The Titans (21-4) have had plenty of fun this season. They competed for the Western Slope League championship and hosted a regional round of the Class 3A state volleyball tournament for the first time in the school’s short history. That paved the way to their first berth in the Class 3A State Championships thanks to Coal Ridge’s victories over Faith Christian and Estes Park in the Region 9 Tournament.
So needless to say, Coal Ridge feels like it’s already been in plenty of big matches this season.
“We’re already making history for our school,” senior outside hitter Alicia Hampton said. “We’re pretty confident, but win or lose, we’ve already made history and paved the way for other volleyball teams to come.”
Coal Ridge will have its first chance to make more school history when the tournament begins at 8 a.m. Friday at the Denver Coliseum. The Titans, the No. 9 seed in the 12-team tournament field, will be in Pool IV with No. 4 Platte Valley and No. 5 Holy Family. Tournament matches will start 8 minutes following the completion of the previous match to accommodate for other teams playing in the tournament.
Semifinals will take place early Saturday, with the Class 3A state championship match scheduled for 7 p.m. that night.
Getting here was a goal from the start of the season for Coal Ridge, and it built its regular-season schedule around preparing for this tournament. The Titans opened the season at the Glenwood Springs Invitational, taking the title against a tournament field that included 4A teams like Steamboat Springs and Glenwood.
They lost handily in their league match against Gunnison, but only lost a nonleague contest to 4A Battle Mountain while winning the rest of their league matches. And during the league tournament at Central High School in Grand Junction, the Titans took the league-champion Cowboys to four sets and were much more competitive.
“Gunnison has some good hitters, but when you get to this level, everyone is going to have good hitters,” senior middle hitter Paige Ryan said. “Playing teams like Gunnison and Battle Mountain have helped us to get this far.”
Coal Ridge comes in with some good hitters, too. Hampton’s 22.8-percent kill rate is a team high, and Bailey Davis’ 137 kills, along with the 120 kills amassed by Jacklyn Collins, lead the team. Brittini Allen’s 53 blocks — followed by Ryan’s 49 — lead the team, and Leah Kanakaraj’s 149 digs is also a team high.
That balance between net play and defense has the Titans confident going into the weekend. Not too confident, though.
“Our girls are nervous and excited at the same time,” Black said. “That’s why we’re trying to prepare them as best we can. There’s a lot there, but these girls also know they can play good, too.”
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