LONGMONT -- Elizabeth Potter takes pride in being the Silver Creek Raptors' go-to option when they need a point. The sophomore outside hitter has been that and more in her first varsity season.
Among Northern Conference volleyball players, Potter is tied with Broomfield's Hanna Boyer for the lead with 323 kills. Like other conference sophomores Niwot's Cori Kirschling, Longmont's Lyndie and Lacy Haddock, and Broomfield's Callie Kaiser, Potter has become a focal point of her team's success at a young age.
For the Raptors, who attended their first-ever state tournament last season, Potter's arrival has helped them return in 2012 despite graduating a talented senior class after last fall.
"It's cool to show that we can lose such a big class and still come out and show everybody that it was great to have them but we can still hold our own in the middle of the conference," Potter said. "We haven't really made a name for ourselves besides the past two years so I think people didn't expect us to do it again this year. But we showed them."
A 5-foot-9 sophomore captain, Potter said she didn't anticipate the statistical success she's experienced. She's mainly been excited to be able to contribute to the team effort any way she can.
For Potter, the casual phrase "any way she can" appears nearly all-encompassing. She is second on the team with 230 digs, behind senior libero Margaret Davis, who has 284. And she is second with 35 aces, behind sophomore Serana Hubert, who has 38. She also is third on the team with 286 successful service receptions, has a .250 hitting percentage and has 18 blocks.
"Everything comes down to a team effort and working together," Potter said. "We have so much fun together and I would do it over again a hundred times."
Potter may be one of the biggest surprises in the state this season, but Raptors head coach Nicholle Chambers knew she was coming. Coming to the end of her third season at Silver Creek, Chambers coached Potter in Gold Crown volleyball since the sixth grade.
At regionals, Potter had 18 kills in each of two wins that propelled the Raptors into the state tournament. The Raptors are the only team to advance to state as a third seed at regionals. They'll also be the only team at state with a losing record.
While the outside world might see the Raptors as the tournament's surprise team, Chambers said their dramatic road to the tournament changes little about their expectations.
"We're in great spot right now and we're happy with how we finished out regionals," Chambers said. "It doesn't change too much, though, because everybody's out there to win. It's the best-of-the-best, top-12 teams."
Seeded into Pool 1, the Raptors will face No. 8 Durango (17-8) at 8 a.m. on Friday at the Denver Coliseum. In their second pool-play match, the Raptors will take on top-ranked, defending champion Cheyenne Mountain later Friday morning.
Despite some expectations that the Raptors may be unable recover from graduation or would disappear from the 4A state tournament after their first trip, Davis said they decided to beat the odds and find a way back.
"We're definitely a lot younger and less experienced this year," Davis said. "But we definitely want to live up to the legacy of going for the first time last year. We want to continue that and continue going to the playoffs."
Silver Creek lost 25-14, 25-18 to Cheyenne Mountain during its host tournament on Sept. 18. The Raptors have not faced Durango, but the Demons did attend that same tournament.
The Raptors made their first state-tournament appearance last year, an accomplishment to be proud of. Now, on Friday at the 4A state tournament, the Raptors will be looking for their first state-tournament victory.
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