LAKEWOOD — Only getting to play each Mile High League team once a season, the Lyons girls volleyball team had it in the back of their mind Tuesday night that a loss to Denver Christian might signal the end of their chances for a conference title.
After Tuesday night, the Lions are going to need some outside help to achieve the goal of winning the conference crown, but the team will continue to focus on its own endeavors after a 3-1 loss to the Thunder at the DCS gym.
A difficult-to-watch injury to middle hitter Ixchel Leeuwenburgh in Set 4 took all the air out of the Lions' attempt to stretch the match to a fifth set, and Denver Christian moved to 5-0 in league play with a 25-21, 17-25, 25-20, 25-23 win.
"Offensively, we're working on a lot right now and defensively we're working on even more," said Lyons head coach Mason Johnson, his team 2-2 in league and 7-2 overall. "Trying new things this week and moving people around just trying to find the right fit for the rest of the season.
"I saw great things all the way through, even against a tough team like this. We have a young team and one of the things we're stressing in practice is the mentality of playing in a game. We're still working on that kind of stuff."
The Thunder (also 7-2 overall) were a formidable challenge at the net and in the back row, and a Lyons team that has been effective on the attack to this point in the season really didn't get going fully until that fourth and final set.
Frustrating the Lions with some tough digs, Denver Christian turned a lot of scrappy defense into points behind hitters Brittney Anton and Hally Herder.
"Normally, I think we are able to put balls away a lot and tonight their defense was just scrappy, a little more than we were," said Lyons libero Sarah Stevelinck, who was impressive in her own right with 33 digs. "I can't take anything away from the way they played."
Denver Christian had a decisive edge in closing out each set. Lyons had Set 1 at 21-21 but lost four straight points on two hitting errors, a block and a finishing kill; Set 3 was also tied at 16-16; and Set 4 was one in which Lyons had a 23-19 lead.
Leeuwenburgh, a junior, was injured in Set 4 with Lyons up 10-9. At the net, she arched back too far while trying to swing for a ball and appeared to have hit her head on the floor. She also injured her ankle, but a deafening silence shot through the gym,
While Lyons hung tough for awhile, Leeuwenburgh's presence on the blocks was missed. She had three blocks in the match prior to getting hurt.
"I think (Denver Christian) did have a lot of defensive plays in the back row and their transition offense was effective tonight," Johnson said. "They had a couple key attackers who didn't have a lot of unforced errors. I'd have to say the won the serve and serve-receive battle."
Freshman Taylor Maguire led the team with 12 kills and sophomore Jayla Harding had 11 kills and three aces.
Denver Christian 3, Lyons 1
At Denver Christian HSLyons (7-2, 2-2) 21 25 20 23
Kills — Lyons: Taylor Maguire 12, Jayla Harding 11.
Blocks — Lyons: Ixchel Leeuwenburgh 3.
Assists — Lyons: Kylen Christiansen 24, Maddi Maguire 18.
Aces — Lyons: M. Maguire 3, Harding 3.
Digs — Lyons: Stevelinck 33, Christiansen 14.