LONGMONT — The 2017 season has seen the Niwot volleyball team take one step forward after another.
Now ranked fourth in Class 4A by the CHSAANow.com poll, the Cougars took another progressive stride on Thursday night. This one was a big one.
In a match that will go a long way towards deciding the 4A Northern League champion, the Cougars (7-1, 4-0 Northern) dealt the Longmont Trojans (8-1, 3-1 Northern) their first loss of the campaign in a raucous cross-town rivalry contest. Having beaten another local rival and conference contender in Silver Creek a week prior, and having only lost to defending champion and top-ranked Lewis-Palmer, winning Thursday's match in five sets, 26-24, 21-25, 22-25, 25-19, 15-13, was an excellent mid-season boost for the Cougars.
"That was definitely one of our most energetic matches and our team cohesion just really came out tonight," Niwot setter Katie Hirsh said. "When we play with that kind of energy, we just keep lifting each other up and we reach a high level that allows us to beat a good team like Longmont. We've been talking about being confident, not cocky, so we still have a lot to improve on but I'd say we're really happy with our season so far."
Longmont, which leads the rivalry series 14-5 since 2005 according to MaxPreps.com, led Thursday's match 2-1 through the first three sets. The Trojans also led 5-1 early in the decisive fifth set before the Cougars came back to tie the score at 6-6 and went on to win 15-13 despite a near comeback from the Trojans.
"Longmont is really well-coached and I knew coming in that Holli (Stetson) would have them ready to battle us," Cougars head coach Daisha Agho said. "Here on their home court, the crowd is always fired up for these rivalry situations. I'm very proud of the girls for being able to pull it out and for the way they finished that last game out."
The Cougars spread the ball around on the attack, with six players registering five or more kills and two players registering 20 or more assists. Led by Rachel Kusbel's match-leading 22, the Trojans likewise had four players with eight or more kills.
"We knew this would be a tough match but we do feel like we have the weapons and the athleticism to do well," Trojans head coach Holli Stetson said. "I'm disappointed in the outcome, of course, but I'm not disappointed in the effort, the hustle and the heart. If we can push one of the top teams in the state like that, then we're headed in a good direction."
Niwot will have a chance to further distance itself as the Northern League leader if it can beat Mountain View (6-2, 2-1) on Tuesday. The Cougars and Trojans will face one another again on Oct. 10.
"We've got some big wins in our conference but the second time around, all these teams will be coming for blood again," Agho said.
Niwot 3, Longmont 2
At Longmont H.S.Niwot (7-1, 4-0) 2621222515Longmont (8-1, 3-1) 2425251913
Kills — Niwot: Fidelak 15, Richard 12, Stephenson 9, Falk 9, Gonzales 7, Shiers 5; Longmont: Kusbel 22, Demosthenes 11, Drees 9, Jonason 8, Bridge 4, Snyder 2, Wetterstrom 2.
Blocks — Niwot: Stephenson; Longmont: Wetterstrom 7, Demosthenes 4, Kusbel 3, Lowe 2, Drees
Assists — Niwot: Hirsh 30, Fidelak 20, Pearson 4, Stephenson, Shiers; Longmont: Cook 44, Goodwin 3, Kusbel 2.
Aces — Niwot: Falk 3, Priola 2, Shiers, Fidelak; Longmont: Wetterstrom 4, Demosthenes 3, Kusbel 2, Lowe 2, Drees..
Digs — Niwot: Fidelak 13, Priola 12, Richard 12, Pearson 8, Falk 7, Shiers 7, Hirsh 4, Gonzales 3, Stephenson; Longmont: Wetterstromg 15, Goodwin 13, Kusbel 9, Lowe 5, Drees 5, Snyder 3, Demosthenes 2, Bridge.