BOULDER — The Fairview volleyball team had to upset Highlands Ranch in the regional round last season just to reach the state tournament and set up their improbable run to the state championship match.
Since the day after the 2016 tryouts, the Knights dedicated their regular season to making sure they had an easier postseason path back to the state finals. That meant earning the right to host a regional tournament, which they did.
At home on Saturday, the Knights reaped the benefits of their labor.
After trouncing No. 34 ThunderRidge (8-18), 25-7, 25-20, 25-18, in the opening match of the Region 3 tournament, the third-seeded Knights (22-4) defeated No. 22 Lakewood, 25-13, 25-17, 25-16 to win the regional title and advance to the state tournament.
"Honestly, this was such a fun day," Knight junior middle Ava Lai said. "They challenged us in the middle but we did a good just of going around the block and just playing our hardest to find the open shots. We worked for this all season and we had great energy today."
Knights head coach Kelsey Spencer said it was obvious early on that the Lakewood Tigers (14-12) had scouted the Knights' talented outside hitters, which caused the team to rely more on Lai and fellow middle Meredith Pearl to open things up. With sisters Christine and Caroline Schmiedeler leading the offense as usual with nine and eight kills, respectively, Lai and Pearl combined add 12 kills and five blocks in the match.
Setter Audrey Cheng, the reigning BoCoPreps.com player of the year, led the Knights with 30 assists. Haley Kildway paced the service attack with three aces. Izze Uvalle had a team-high 13 digs.
"Lakewood is a good team and they really, really hustle so we had to bring our A-game and fight," Spencer said. "We've been preparing all week and all season for this goal so everyone played super hard. I'm very, very proud of them."
The surprise of the 2015 postseason, the Knights will enter this year's state tournament counted among other top seeds like Fossil Ridge, Rock Canyon and Chatfield. While they may be heading to state in a different position than they were in last season, the Knights' goal has not changed.
"I'm excited to see what we can do at state," Pearl said. "Everything went perfectly today and being a senior it was really great to play regionals here on this court. I think we have a good shot at the state title. We're working really, really hard at practice to do that."
The state tournament will take place Nov. 11-12 at the Denver Coliseum.
Fairview 3, Lakewood 0
At Fairview H.S.Lakewood 13 17 16
Kills — Fairview: Christine Schmiedeler 9, Caroline Schmiedeler 8, Meredith Pearl 6, Ava Lai 6, Haley Kilday 2.
Blocks — Fairview: Meredith Pearl 3, Haley Kilday 2, Christine Schmiedeler 2, Ava Lai 2, Caroline Schmiedeler.
Assists — Fairview: Audrey Cheng 30.
Aces — Fairview: Haley Kilday 3, Meredith Pearl 2, Sydney McAfee 2, Caroline Schmiedeler.
Digs — Fairview: Izze Uvalle 13, Haley Kilday 8, Christine Schmiedeler 6, Audrey Cheng 6, Caroline Schmiedeler 5, Meredith Pearl 3, Sydney McAfee, Lauren Taeko Chase.