Perhaps for good reason, the volleyball scene in Colorado seems to shift focus on the Colorado Springs area when it comes to the Class 4A level. Nationally ranked Lewis-Palmer and perennial power Cheyenne Mountain tend to play a role in that.
However, for Ali Travis and the Holy Family Tigers there was nothing better than flying under the radar all the way to the state championship match. And, there might not have been a happier group to eventually succumb to the Rangers.
No one who saw the Tigers play through the year would say their tournament run was a fluke, what with a standout senior libero, and a group of juniors who blocked and hit with the best, and a team that served strong and aggressive.
In the middle of it all was Travis. Like her signature No. 8 jersey, she ran around the court in circles — all with direction and intent, an in-every-play type player that has already shown a knack for coming up big in key moments. For her all-around play in all facets of the game, Travis has been named the BoCoPreps.com volleyball player of the year.
"I had a lot of great experiences this season, and just being a part of this team was one of them because we took every challenge that we could and just tried to make the best out of it," Travis, just a sophomore, said this week. "We played to our full potential, and that's exciting.
"It will definitely be remembered."
So, too, will Travis's season as an outside hitter. As Holy Family worked its way to a 24-5 record, there was nary a category for Holy Family in which Travis didn't finish among the team leaders. In particular, she was first in kills with 332, first in aces with 69, second in digs with 301 and second in hitting percentage at .299. The kills total was good for fifth in the 4A ranks.
Holy Family was a team that could have three girls lead the team in kills on any particular night, but Travis was pretty consistent on the attack with 20 matches reaching double digits. Her season high was 25 kills in a regular season finale against Niwot — one of two five-set thrillers against the Cougars that the Tigers were able to scratch out. She hit .500 or better in five matches, including a 17-kill performance against Windsor late in September.
She also had five matches with five or more aces, and 17 matches of 10 or more digs (had a season-most 24 digs in an October win against Mead).
She took pride in being able to execute in every area of the game, and she grew drastically after already coming on strong as a freshman.
"For me, I just tried to take on all the challenges that I could from the coaches and all the people that support me, and I tried to do the best that I could," Travis said. "I just tried to pursue every point that I could to try and help the team out."
After going 0-2 at the 2015 state tournament, the Tigers were much more poised in their 2016 appearance. The breezed past Eagle Valley, shook off Niwot and then beat Valor Christian rather handily in the state semifinals before running into the juggernaut that was 29-0 Lewis-Palmer. Ironically, the state championship match, a 3-0 loss for the Tigers, was still Travis's favorite moment of the year.
"We did not expect to get second at state, but we were so proud and there was not a tear shed that day," Travis said. "The Niwot matches were really fun, but the Lewis-Palmer match was great just because we aren't used to playing Division I level players in our league. That experience, on that stage, was awesome."
With the returning group of players the Tigers potentially boast, there's no question a rematch could happen. But next year, Holy Family won't be regarded as an underdog.