Titans primed for tough matchups at state tourney
For the fourth straight season, the Coal Ridge girls volleyball team will make the trek east to the Denver Coliseum for the Class 3A state playoff tournament Friday and Saturday.
Coming off of a thrilling regional tournament win last Friday over Denver Science & Tech Stapleton and Faith Christian, the Titans enter the state tournament as the No. 10 seed in the 12-team tournament, starting Friday morning.
In the state tournament, the Titans will yet again have to square off with the Eaton Reds (23-2, 10-0 3A Patriot League) at 9:45 a.m. Friday. The Reds haven’t lost in the state tournament for the last three years, winning three straight state championships under Gwen Forster.
Now, the Titans will have to play spoiler for the second straight year at state against the Reds, who topped Coal Ridge by scores of 25-18, 25-5 and 25-14. The second match between the two just so happened to be the game in which Kaitlyn Detlefsen, one of the best players in the state last year, suffered a season-ending injury, stunning the Titans.
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While Detlefsen was the key to Coal Ridge last season offensively, the Titans are a much deeper, well-rounded team this year, which has the experienced group setting their sights high in this year’s state tournament.
“I think it’s going to help us a lot this year being deep,” Coal Ridge Head Coach Aimee Gerber said. “The girls don’t second guess what they do, and I think we are deep. I’ve said before that I feel we can put almost all of our girls on the court and not worry. I think our defense is a lot more confident than last year, which — along with another year of maturity — will help our offense. When our defense is consistent and very aggressive, it allows us to run our offense.”
A key part of the offense is a healthy Nicole Mooney and a confident Kaitlyn Harlow at the net, which seems to be shaping up well for the Titans heading into the weekend. Along with Mooney and Harlow, the Titans have the pleasure of deploying Dana Kotz all over the court, while bringing in players such as Paige Harlow, Kara Morgan, Alexa Wiescamp and MacKenzie Crawford off the bench to really boost the attack, while Emily Wright, Santana Martinez, Cheyanne Williams and Cassie Greene will play key parts defensively for Coal Ridge.
With so many weapons, it will be difficult for teams such as Eaton and Sterling (20-5, 7-3 3A Patriot League) — whom the Titans will face on Saturday morning — to key in on one certain play while trying to shut down the offensive attack.
“I think we have a really good chance because of the depth we have,” Mooney said. “They’re not going to be able to key in on that one player because if that one player isn’t having a good game, there’s another player ready to step up right behind them. I think that’s something that this program hasn’t seen in awhile. We’ve always had that one really good player, but we’ve never really had this strong of a team.
“The younger players have really stepped up in a big way this year, and we all just want it more this year because we believe we can do something there, considering this is our fourth straight year in the state tournament.”
Morale is high around the team knowing what lies ahead this weekend, especially considering the upset the Titans pulled off last week at Faith Christian.
Now, the stakes are higher in the state tournament, and for the Titans to pull off more upsets this late in the season they’ll need to stick to the game plan.
“We need to be consistent and we need to not give up, even through the tough points in games,” Gerber said. “We need to swing aggressive and serve aggressive, and we’ve really worked on serving all week because if we can pull some aces or get them out of their system, that’s good for us.
“Plus, the girls have really gotten comfortable with focusing on five points at a time. We’ve done that all year, but lately we’ve really focused on it.”
The Titans will tip off against the Reds at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Denver Coliseum before taking on the Tigers of Sterling at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in their final guaranteed game of the state tournament.
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