DENVER -- In her four years of high school volleyball, Sarah Weerstra has been in some tight spots with Holy Family. But Saturday at the Denver Coliseum, in what proved to be her team's season finale, took the cake.
The eighth-seeded Tigers already had their work cut out for them in facing top-seeded Valley in the second match of Class 3A tournament pool play. But key injuries right off the bat against the Vikings precipitated Holy Family's quick demise. The Tigers showed backbone, but as Weerstra points out, their 25-13, 25-14, 25-15 loss was no big shock once Claudia Pena and Blayke Hranicka were stuck courtside.
"There are things that go wrong in any match," the Holy Family setter said. "But to have both your middles go down, you couldn't ask for much worse."
Holy Family (16-11) had barely even begun the match when the injuries hit. Pena rolled her ankle on the first serve against Valley (27-0). Then later on in the opening set Hranicka tweaked her knee, walking off the court when the score was 21-10 in favor of the Vikings.
The injuries cost the team its two tallest players, who had accounted for the lion's share of its points throughout the season. And it forced the team to shift its game plan and players on the fly.
"We had Marta (Plonski), who has played some middle and we had a swinger from JV come in," Weerstra said. "And I moved myself to middle."
The moves stabilized the Tigers and even had them thriving at moments in the game. Weerstra and her sister Katie combined for 10 kills and by the third set the team had grown confident enough to draw within a few points of the Vikings. But the Tigers were also realistic about their chances against Valley.
Holy Family played the Vikings earlier in the season, falling in two sets in tournament play. And even if HFHS would have had all its players healthy for the entirety of the match, Bryan Winther knew they still had their work cut out for them.
"Really the game was a test of our character," the Holy Family coach said. "They could have gone out there and lay down or figure it out and play their hardest."
It was not an easy trip to the state tourney for Holy Family. The team was shocked in its opening match against 12th-seed Manitou Springs (20-7). Difficult as the loss was to gut, Winther believes his team was able to shake it off heading into Saturday's match.
"It was a shock, but I don't think it carried over to today at all," the coach said.
The finish was bittersweet, Weerstra said. On one hand the team had shaky points at the beginning of the season, making state appear iffy. But on the other hand, the team came into the 3A championship with the full intention of advancing. Even without making it out of pool play, the senior believes her team accomplished plenty in its state run.
"Next year is going to be interesting to watch," said Weerstra, one of five graduating seniors. "I think they might even make us look bad."
Follow Elwood on Twitter @ElwoodKShelton.
Valley 3, Holy Family 0
At Denver Coliseum
Holy Family (16-11) 13 14 15
Valley (27-0) 25 25 25
Kills -- Holy Family: Katie Weerstra 4, Sarah Weerstra 6.
Blocks -- Holy Family: Sarah Weerstra 1.
Assists -- Holy Family: Sarah Weerstra 22.
Aces -- Holy Family: Abby Flesher 1.
Digs -- Holy Family: Tylynn Nelson 20.