BROOMFIELD — Assuming they are not in the same pool at the state volleyball tournament this time around, it really wouldn't surprise many if both Holy Family and Niwot were two of the four teams remaining in Class 4A vying for a state championship.
Their non-league matchup on Monday night at Holy Family, too, gave no indication that they wanted to give in to the other if indeed that came to fruition.
Holy Family certainly didn't give in on their home floor on senior night, even when it went down two games to none in the match and were flirting with being swept. For the fourth straight meeting in the still-budding rivalry, it took that shortened fifth set to determine a winner, and for the fourth straight time Holy Family was able to come up with the 3-2 victory.
At this time of the season, neither team could ask for better competition ahead of regionals. But for Holy Family junior Ali Travis, the Tigers couldn't have asked for a better win.
"It was definitely fun to have such a great match on senior night, because the seniors give so much to us and we just wanted to give as much back to them as we could," Travis said after leading HFHS with 26 kills in the 23-25, 23-25, 25-15, 25-17, 17-15 win. "We worked very hard for this one. It's so much more competitive when you play an awesome team like Niwot and it definitely makes us better for the future."
The scene Monday was a little more cozy than that of the spacious Denver Coliseum floor, but the pair of top-five teams were in playoff mode from the start of the match.
For Niwot (16-4), its front row block was at the heart of a set one win as the Cougars secured eight block points to go along with 10 team kills. The Cougars trailed Holy Family 22-21 in set one and again at 23-21 in set two before charging hard with their balanced attack, too.
But the Tigers, not used to having to adjust much with no five-set matches played since September 2, were able to start working around that vaunted NHS block a lot more often midway through set three.
Holy Family closed its first win on a 10-point run, and Travis was the hot hand in set four as she had 10 of her kills in that game alone. A Travis ace sent the match to a winner-take-all fifth set to 15, and again Holy Family struck for double-digits in successful swings to improve to 21-2 overall.
Rachel Siurek added 17 kills for Holy Family, which will close out its regular season Tuesday against Mead. Also for the Tigers, senior Sara Berghoff tallied 49 set assists and three individuals — Travis, Peyton Frank and Sophie Ryan — all topped 20 digs.
"We knew we had to move on after that first set and just knew we had to find a way to work together around the block," Travis said. "We did it as a group."
"We knew coming in we needed to be patient and just have confidence in one another, and just know we were going to need to adjust to a few things in this kind of a match," Holy Family head coach Krista Solomon said. "We kind of braced ourselves for going five. Ali took over set four, and Sara did a great job of continuing to believe in her."
Niwot had a balanced attack behind Mackenzie Fidelak, Emma Falk, Zoe Gonzales, Emma Shiers and Audrey Richard all contributing to a stellar night overall. For the Cougars, Monday marked the first time playing without injured setter Madison Schoeder — a pivotal player whom head coach Daisha Agho says should be back in time for regionals.
The Cougars normally run a 5-1 system with Schoeder but switched to a 6-2 for the night, and that put Fidelak in as a second setter.
"We let off the gas ... how do you get a car to go? You step on that pedal," Agho said. "We had some great fuel the first two sets, and we had been struggling with coming out strong the past couple matches. We did that, and you get excited for that, but we weren't able to keep it up.
"A lot of good things to see at this time of year, and I definitely don't walk away concerned."
Holy Family 3, Niwot 2
At Holy Family HSNiwot (16-4)2525151715Holy Family (21-2)2323252517
Kills — Holy Family: Ali Travis 26, Rachel Siurek 17.
Blocks — Holy Family: Jody Gallagher 6, Rileigh Lynch 6.
Assists — Holy Family: Sara Berghoff 49.
Aces — Holy Family: Sophie Ryan 2, Travis 2.
Digs — Holy Family: Peyton Frank 21, Travis 20, Ryan 20, Berghoff 19.
Niwot stats weren't immediately available after the match.