LOVELAND — They may no longer be league foes, but Lyons volleyball coach Mason Johnson is going to do everything in his power to keep Resurrection Christian on their schedule in the coming years.
After all, there is a lot that can be learned from a team that made a run at a third straight state championship last year.
The Cougars, a former Mile High League opponent in the sport, are now in 3A and the Class 2A Lions welcomed the chance to play them on the road as they make their stretch run toward the playoffs. A tough attack proved favorable for Rez in a 3-1 win Thursday at RCS but the consensus was the team was better for it in the end.
"I love coming to this gym and I love battling with (Rez) because coach Caleb (Howard) has them locked in," said Johnson, whose No. 4 ranked Lions lost 25-22, 25-17, 17-25, 25-13 to the 3A No. 6 Cougars. "The atmosphere is great and it still feels every bit like a rivalry but with so much respect for each other that everyone can enjoy it.
"You learn against a team like that you have to truck through some situations, and I would say tonight I think it was some of the best volleyball I've seen them play all season."
Rez (12-4) was yet another elite small school team the Lions (13-4 overall) have faced this season — joining Dayspring Christian, Yuma and Denver Christian. With the exception of Yuma, Lions was able to work in a set victory.
And with the exception of the fourth set Thursday night, the Lions were right there with Rez — last year's 2A runner-up after winning state titles in 2013 and 2014.
Sets 1 and 2 were tied at 15-15 and 13-13, respectively, before the Cougars put together a couple of key runs to gain a 2-0 lead. In Set 2, it was a six-point spurt that included three kills and two aces that put Rez on the right track.
Lyons put together one of its best sets of the season in Set 3, putting together three blocks, five aces and eight kills with just four hitting errors to put RCS on its heels a bit.
The Cougars adjusted in Set 4, tallying 14 kills in that game to take the victory. The Rez surge was largely charged by Keighan Miller on the outside and Kyra Zuhlke in the middle.
"It's all about energy and maintaining momentum and taking big points," Johnson said. "They had some big hitters that can bang down the ball."
"Being able to play an offense and a scrappy defense like they have is really going to help us out in the long run, and it was just a great game," added junior Sarah Stevelinck, who had 29 digs. "I think we played awesome, probably one of the best games we've played so far. It was just tough to keep momentum over them because they had a good home crowd."
Sarah Hall finished with six blocks as that phase of the game came through pretty well for Lyons. Offensively, Jayla Harding led the way with nine kills, and Taylor Maguire added seven.
Resurrection Christian 3, Lyons 1
At RCSLyons (13-4) 22 17 25 13
Kills — Lyons: Jayla Harding 9, Taylor Maguire 7, Ixchel Leeuwenburgh 6.
Blocks — Lyons: Sarah Hall 6, Leeuwenburgh 2.
Assists — Lyons: Maddi Maguire 17, Kylen Christiansen 12.
Aces — Lyons: M. Maguire 3, Harding 2.
Digs — Lyons: Sarah Stevelinck 29, T. Maguire 7.