LONGMONT — Albeit almost the same Silver Creek volleyball team as the one that went to the Class 4A state tournament in 2015, the 2016 Raptors are a more mature, more balanced version with a different vision entirely of what is to come next weekend.
No longer are they the happy-to-be-there team that worked their way to the Denver Coliseum by winning a pair of one-set playoffs to make the field of 12. Now sporting a 22-3 record after a thoroughly dominating performance Friday at the Region 10 tournament it hosted, Silver Creek tone's is a little more emphatic.
"They wanted this from the beginning of the season and they earned it, big time," said head coach Tatum McKenzie. "We went into state last year just like, 'wow, we're here' and this year we're going in thinking we have a chance. They have the ability, the skill, and they want it."
One would not need much convincing the Raptors, with 11 seniors on a 14-girl roster, are on a mission after watching two 3-0 sweeps of their regional opponents — No. 27 seed Summit (25-15, 25-14, 25-14) and No. 15 seed Palmer Ridge (25-7, 25-15, 25-16).
In every area of the game, the Raptors were crisp and concise, not to mention a little creative at times to get around blocks. They served well (just four service errors in six sets), hit effectively (.273 against Summit and .351 against the Bears) and frustrated their opponents early in sets to get the momentum.
"All of us played really well, and we were just all on because we had such great practices this week," said Chloe Olson, whose night was highlighted with two aces, seven kills and a black against the Bears. "We felt really good after the first match, and it just carried over. It was just fun to just see us unite, and everyone got their moment."
Palmer Ridge beat Summit 3-1 in the middle match of the day, and the Bears had a little bit of height to suggest they were a formidable opponent. It became quickly evident that their attack was not very diverse, however, and the Raptors' back row was able to keep a lot of rallies up and transition.
Silver Creek's Jenika Zens served 17 straight points in Set 1 to take the score to 24-4 at one point, and SCHS tallied 14 kills. In Set 2, it was 16-12 Silver Creek before the Raptors snuck in three blocks in a six-point run; and in Set 3 the hosts once again never trailed and tallied 17 kills in the set.
Olson finished the night with an ace, and the Silver Creek bench erupted with emotion.
"It's amazing to be going to state for the second straight year, but it's just been so much fun because of this senior group that we've been playing together for so many years," Olson said.
Rylee Anderson led the team in kills both matches (28 total) but Kelsey Adams (17 total) and Taylor Merriman (16) were also tough to handle. The Raptors had 71 digs against the Bears alone, too.
"I'm not a laid back kind of coach, so we went hard at practice this past week," McKenzie added. "Taylor is hitting great, and Kelsey came out with a great showing. Jenika played great defense, and really our whole team was great on defense."
The state tournament begins next Friday morning at the Denver Coliseum with pool play for all classifications.
Silver Creek 3, Summit 0
At Silver Creek HSSummit 15 14 14 Silver Creek 25 25 25
Kills — Silver Creek: Rylee Anderson 14, Kelsey Adams 10, Taylor Merriman 5, Chloe Olson 5, Caitlin Volkmann 4, McKenna Webster 2.
Blocks — Silver Creek: Volkmann 2, Adams 2, Olson 1.
Assists — Silver Creek: Webster 30.
Aces — Silver Creek: Jenika Zens 4, Olson 3, Webster 2, Amy Zens 2, Anderson 1, Merriman 1.
Digs — Silver Creek: Webster 10, A. Zens 9, Merriman 9, Anderson 8, J. Zens 6.
Palmer Ridge 3, Summit 1
Summit 18 26 23 17 Palmer Ridge 25 24 25 25
Silver Creek 3, Palmer Ridge 0
Palmer Ridge 7 15 16 Silver Creek 25 25 25
Kills — Silver Creek: Anderson 14, Merriman 11, Olson 7, Adams 7, Webster 5, Volkmann 4.
Blocks — Silver Creek: Anderson 3, Adams 2, Volkmann 2, Olson 1.
Assists — Silver Creek: Webster 34, Olson 2.
Aces — Silver Creek: Olson 2, J. Zens 2.
Digs — Silver Creek: Merriman 19, J. Zens 18, Anderson 13, A. Zens 6.