Titans swept by Reds to open state tourney
DENVER — Heading into the state tournament for the fourth straight year, the Coal Ridge Titans girls volleyball team knew that it had its work cut out, especially having to face the Eaton Reds on Friday to open the tournament for the second straight year.
What Coal Ridge wasn’t expecting was to fall behind 12-0 early in set one, putting the Titans on their heels early. However, the experienced Titans continued to fight throughout the rest of the match and held leads in the second and third sets before ultimately falling to the Reds in straight sets by scores of 11-25, 13-25 and 21-25 inside the Denver Coliseum.
Knowing that the key to the Eaton attack was standout senior middle hitter Tarynn Sieg, the Titans tried to get in her head to start the game by setting up block attempts, but the 6-foot-1-inch middle hitter was simply too powerful on the attack, leading the Reds to the early 12-0 lead behind a handful of kills, as well as a kill from teammate Ashton Reese and an ace from Courtney Leafgren to pace the Reds.
Trailing 12-0 quickly, Coal Ridge Head Coach Aimee Gerber called a timeout to try and slow the Eaton momentum and calm her players down.
“I just told them that they all looked scared instead of confident,” Gerber said. “I said that in our talk this morning out here warming up that they looked like a completely different team, and I said that it’s okay to lose, but it’s not okay to lose without effort. I told them that they weren’t making them work for their points and were just handing it to them. Most of the girls kicked it into gear from there.”
That they did as the Titans and Reds traded points throughout the rest of the match.
Down 18-4 in the set, Coal Ridge received big kills from Cassie Greene and Paige Harlow to close the deficit to 19-9, but two big kills from Eaton’s Makenzie Harris thwarted any momentum the Titans had generated on the brief comeback attempt.
Down 23-10, Kaitlyn Harlow and Dana Kotz teamed up for a big combination block at the net to make it 23-11 before Reese and Sieg ended the first set with two booming kills for the Reds.
“It’s hard when you play a team like that caliber because your defense takes the biggest hit,” Gerber said. “Our block was having difficulty timing because we haven’t played anyone that runs that fast of an offense, and so our block was struggling to get there and help our defense; they knew that.”
Looking to rebound in the second set, the Titans raced out to a lead and started to play their style of volleyball as Cheyanne Williams came up with a massive dig on a thunderous kill attempt by Sieg, leading to a big early point for the Titans before Greene came through with a kill to push the Coal Ridge lead to 7-4.
“I told them that they had to serve more aggressively, and I think we had a couple of girls go in there and come through with some good serves,” Gerber said. “That got them out of their system, which allowed us to run our system offensively. I think they got out of their fear and realized it’s just other girls on the other side of the net and that we need to just play the game.”
Up three, the Titans had trouble holding the lead as Sieg came through with a block and a kill, while Isabel Noonan added a kill of her own to tie the game at 7-7.
Trading points back and forth, the Titans held a narrow 12-11 lead behind two straight kills from Kara Morgan before the Reds responded in force. Sieg came through with a big kill to cap off a 5-0 run, forcing the Titans to take a quick timeout.
Down 16-12, the Titans would score just one more point in the set as the Reds rattled off nine of the final 10 points to seal the 25-13 win, putting the Titans on the brink of a sweep.
In the final set of the day, the Titans played a really strong game in both phases as the defense came up with some big digs by Emily Wright, Santana Martinez and Williams, leading directly to offensive chances at the net against the Reds.
Tying the set up at 11-11, Greene came through with the play of the match, digging a big kill attempt by Sieg that ended up flying over into the Eaton side of the court, falling just inside the back line for a big point to put the Titans ahead, 12-11, igniting the Coal Ridge bench.
However, the momentum would be short lived as the Reds scored three straight points, including an ace from Leafgren, pushing the Eaton lead to 14-12.
Trailing in the set, Kaitlyn Harlow came up with a big kill, while Kotz added an impressive block at the net to right the ship for the Titans, but Sieg proved to be too much at the net in the end, capping off the sweep with two big kills to dispatch the Titans.
“We couldn’t get our offense going today,” Gerber said. “That’s been the key for us all year, and we just didn’t get a lot of kills today.”
The Titans will prepare to take on the Sterling Tigers on Saturday morning on Day 2 of the Class 3A state tournament inside the Denver Coliseum.
“I think just not playing Eaton will be a boost for us,” Gerber said. “Nobody in this entire arena except for Lewis-Palmer wants to play Eaton, but I think we just need to focus on trying to be aggressive. Our goal is to win a match here, and that’s what we’re focusing on.
“No Coal Ridge team has ever won a match here; they’ve won sets, but never a match. That’s our goal for tomorrow.”
The Titans and Tigers will tip off at 9:30 a.m.
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