DENVER -- The Holy Family volleyball team knew top-seeded Valley was the biggest obstacle between the Tigers and the Class 3A state semifinals.
But after the No. 8 Tigers lost 25-20, 19-25, 24-26, 25-20, 18-16 to 12th-seeded Manitou Springs, Saturday morning's duel with Valley became an even tougher challenge.
The Tigers (16-10) will need not just a win over the undefeated Vikings (26-0), but a convincing one, if they hope to play into a tiebreaker scenario.
"We've gotta beat them in dominating fashion, which puts even more pressure on us," Tigers head coach Bryan Winther said.
After a slow start, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead against the Mustangs. But they couldn't close out the match despite leading much of game
The Tigers led the Mustangs 14-8 in the final frame. But the Mustangs came back to win 18-16. HFHS Junior libero Tylynn Nelson said the Tigers couldn't maintain momentum when they needed to at key moments in the match.
"We were ahead and we had all the momentum," said Nelson, who had 24 digs. "Then we made a few key errors and our momentum dropped. We just couldn't get it back up in time."
Sophomore Blayke Hranicka led the Tigers with 18 kills and senior Sarah Weerstra led with 34 assists.
Junior middle Claudia Pena said the Tigers weren't focused the way they shouldn't have been.
"It was definitely up and down. We had some of our best plays but we also had some of our worst," said Pena, who had 13 kills and five blocks. "It was inconsistent but I know that we can even that out."
The 2012 Tigers feature a young team that had never been under the bright lights at state. Winther said the Tigers weren't as prepared to play a tough match against the Mustangs as they should have been.
"We were expecting them to give it to us," Winther said. "We didn't have anyone that went out and made plays. That was the difference."
The Tigers will play Valley around 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. The match will immediately follow the 8 a.m. match between University and St. Mary's.
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Manitou Springs 3, Holy Family 2
At Denver Coliseum
Manitou Springs (20-7) 25 19 24 25 18
Holy Family (16-10) 20 25 26 20 16
Kills -- Manitou Springs: McKiel 20, Thompson 13; Holy Family: Hranicka 18, Pena 13.
Blocks -- Manitou Springs: Withram 5, Santos 2; Holy Family: Hranicka 5, Pena 3.
Assists -- Manitou Springs: McGee 42, Thompson 2; Holy Family: Weerstra 34.
Aces -- Manitou Springs: Thompson 3, Archuleta 2; Holy Family: S. Mosko 2, Nelson 2.
Digs -- Manitou Springs: Archuleta 20, McKiel 18; Holy Family: Nelson 24, Flesher 20.