DENVER -- The Trojans were downright dominant through two games against Coronado at the Class 4A state tournament on Saturday. But sometimes the third is the hardest to win.
In the final pool play match, with the winner advancing to the Class 4A semifinals, No. 6-seed Coronado overcame a 2-0 deficit to stun the third-seeded Trojans 17-25, 20-25, 25-20, 33-31, 15-13 in a match that appeared as though it was all over but for the final whistle.
"We were in complete control, we honestly were, and we let it slip through our fingers," junior Maddi Precht said. "Give credit to Coronado because they took it from us. We had so many opportunities and we blew it."
After a 9-0 Cougars run spoiled a 13-7 lead in game three, the Trojans looked to have regained the control they had built in games one and two to start the fourth. In what would have been a decisive game four, the Trojans rushed out to an early lead and held on until they sat comfortably ahead at 24-15.
With the Trojans one point away from the state semifinals for nine straight volleys, the Cougars pulled of an improbable 9-0 run to tie the game. From there, the Trojans had match point four more times before the Cougars finally ground out the win 16 points later.
Precht, who led the Trojans with five blocks, said defense was a crucial component to the Trojans' success in games one and two. But that defense disappeared in game three, during which the Trojans had no blocks.
With Lacy Haddock starting on the serve, the Trojans stormed out of the gates again in game five and took a quick 9-3 lead. But Coronado went on another run, this time 9-1, to take the lead at 12-10. The teams then traded points until the game, and the match, ended in the Cougars' favor.
After the match, Trojans head coach Holli Stetson said her young team lost its edge once things started going south after the multiple lightning-fast starts.
"It seemed like we had some kids that lost confidence and did not trust in their skills," Stetson said. "We ended up playing very tentative and volleyball is a such a game of mistakes that you can't hesitate and you can't be tentative if you want to be among the best."
Getting flustered and committing unforced errors in key situations, Stetson said, prevented the Trojans from realizing their full potential and advancing as far as they knew they were capable.
Junior outside hitter Becca Mau had 29 kills, Lyndie Haddock had 12 and Lacy Haddock had 10. Freshman Sydney Wetterstrom hit the ball hard against Coronado despite a groin injury and finished with nine kills.
Kaili Brazell came in to serve whenever possible and good things happened when she did. The junior finished with four aces.
Windsor eliminated the Trojans in pool play last season. Cloie Cox, this year's lone senior, said missing the semifinals in her final season despite getting so close was disappointing. But overall, she said she was happy with her final Trojans campaign, which included a Northern Conference title and a regional championship.
"We've learned to live with no regrets, especially in the game of volleyball," said Cox, who made 30 digs. "Our conference season was nothing to forget or regret. Regionals was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that was great. At state, we just couldn't pull through."
Though Cox may be leaving, the Trojans are returning the rest of their starting lineup in 2013 and hope to make a similar run during the regular season, during which they went 22-1 this year.
Salvaging a lesson among the wreckage of the painful defeat, junior setter Elena Michalski said the Trojans learned they need to be better at executing in the clutch.
"I never want to feel this again," said Michalski, who led the Trojans with 26 assists. "It's exciting to know that we'll have almost the same exact team next year. I hope that we come out next year and we learn from this experience. It's some comfort to know that we will be back here next year and have something to prove."
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Coronado 3, Longmont 2
At Denver Coliseum
Coronado (24-3) 17 20 25 33 15
Longmont (25-2) 25 25 20 31 13
Kills -- Coronado: Erica Lambert 21, Serina Nickle 18, Madison Darby-McClure 10, Savannah Telander 3, Brittany Lesar 2, Alexia Morey 2, Julie Ward; Longmont: Becca Mau 29, Lyndie Haddock 12, Lacy Haddock 10, Sydney Wetterstrom 9, Maddi Precht 5, Dailyn Johnson.
Blocks -- Coronado: Alexia Morey 5, Serina Nickle 4, Brittany Lesar 2, Savannah Telander 2, Erica Lambert, Madison Darby-McClure; Longmont: Maddi Precht 5, Sydney Wetterstrom 3, Lacy Haddock 3, Dailyn Johnson 3, Lyndie Haddock 2, Becca Mau.
Assists -- Coronado: Serina Nickle 29, Erica Lambert 17, Brittany Lesar 2, Julie Ward, Madison Darby-McClure, Savannah Telander; Longmont: Elena Michalski 26, Lyndie Haddock 20, Sydney Wetterstrom 2, Maddi Precht.
Digs -- Coronado: Julie Ward 40, Erica Lambert 27, Serina Nickle 16, Savannah Telander 9, Allie Garcia 9; Longmont: Cloie Cox 30, Becca Mau 24, Lacy Haddock 21, Lyndie Haddock 17, Kaili Brazell 3, Sydney Wetterstrom 2, Elena Michalski 2, Maddi Precht.
Aces -- Coronado: Erica Lambert, Julie Ward, Savannah Telander, Madison Darby-McClure; Longmont: Kaili Brazell 4, Lacy Haddock 3, Lyndie Haddock 3, Becca Mau, Elena Michalski, Cloie Cox.