DENVER — The "Orange Crush" apparently does not just reside with the Denver Broncos. It seems the Lewis-Palmer volleyball team can stake claim to that moniker, as well.
For the Holy Family Tigers, a determined run to the Class 4A state championship game meant meeting up with the Rangers, ranked fourth nationally and who came in having lost just four sets the entire season on their way to a 28-0 mark.
A hard-swinging juggernaut in its fifth straight finals match flexed its muscles, winning 3-0 for its biggest mark on the belt, but the Tigers were all smiles when handed their second-place trophy. It was, to their knowledge, the best finish for a Holy Family team in the sport.
And it was a spectacular run to get there.
"Last year, we came here and didn't win a game. To make it to the finals was the best feeling ever, and it was as far as Holy Family has come in a really long time," said junior setter Sara Berghoff, who finished with 21 assists in the 25-10, 25-20, 25-21 loss. "There were no hard feelings. (Lewis-Palmer) was incredible."
"We really went out there with the idea, we're going to play a really good team and we're just going to try and match them," senior libero Sam Weber said. "It is so much fun to play a team like that, and it just gives you so much practice on reading hitters and finding the blocks. It's fun to dig hitters like that."
The Rangers were able to put down 51 kills against the Tigers, who are widely known for excelling in the blocks. With two Division I recuits — Lydia Bartalo (Denver) and Michaela Putnicki (Virginia) — just the tip of the iceberg, they didn't mess around when it came to the net play.
But Weber was pretty relentless herself in the back row, finishing with 29 digs. Ali Travis had six digs, as well, and the Tigers (24-5) actually felt they got better as they went along.
"I think we were really trying hard to just leave it all out there, and we came back from a slow start. After that first set, we were determined to play our best," head coach Krista Solomon said. "They don't have a weak link on the other side, and our block was a little slow at first but Sam did a phenomenal job. She didn't back down."
There were certainly more pressure-packed moments for Holy Family throughout the day, including their pool play game against Niwot that went to five sets after HFHS held a 2-0 lead. In set 5, the Tigers had an early 8-1 lead in the race to 15 points, but Niwot stormed back to tie it at 14-14. A couple NHS errors gave Holy Family the win.
They went on to defeat Valor Christian in the semifinals, 3-1, with Berghoff racking up 49 assists. Rachel Siurek had 15 kills and Julia Giltner had 14 kills in the victory over the Eagles.
Weber, Sydney Alderfer and Willow Belenski leave the program on a high note as seniors, but the bulk of this Tigers team are juniors with a target in place for next year.
"I'm so proud and really honored to be part of this team," Weber said.
"I think we can be great next year," Berghoff said.
Class 4A state tournament
Lewis-Palmer 3, Holy Family 0
At Denver ColiseumHoly Family (24-5) 10 20 21 Lewis-Palmer (29-0) 25 25 25
Kills — Holy Family: Siurek 10, Gallagher 6, Travis 5, Giltner 3, Alderfer 1.
Blocks — Holy Family: Giltner 2, Gallagher 1, Travis 1.
Assists — Holy Family: Berghoff 21, Gallagher 1, Travis 1.
Aces — Holy Family: Frank 1.
Digs — Holy Family: Weber 29, Travis 6, Belenski 5, Frank 2, Siurek 2, Eldridge 2.
Holy Family 3, Niwot 2
At Denver ColiseumNiwot 19 20 25 25 14 Holy Family 25 25 16 19 16
Kills — Niwot: E. Falk 17, Fidelak 13, S. Falk 7, Gonzales 5, Chavez 1, Richard 1, Shiers 1; Holy Family: Siurek 25, Gallagher 8, Giltner 7, Travis 6, Berghoff 2, Alderfer 1.
Blocks — Niwot: Gonzales 8, Fidelak 5, E. Falk 4, S. Falk 2, Chavez 2; Holy Family: Gallagher 6, Siurek 3, Berghoff 2, Giltner 1, Alderfer 1.
Assists — Niwot: Chavez 45; Holy Family: Berghoff 42, Weber 2, Gallagher 1, Travis 1.
Aces — Niwot: Bradbury 2, Richard 2, Fidelak, S. Falk; Holy Family: Travis 5, Frank 3, Belenski 2.
Digs — Niwot: Chavez 14, Bradbury 14, Fidelak 7, Richard 6, S. Falk 6, Priola 4, E. Falk 2, Shiers 2; Holy Family: Weber 28, Travis 7, Belenski 6, Berghoff 5, Frank 3, Gallagher 2, Alderfer 1, Siurek 1, Lynch 1.