The Niwot Cougars, hosting a regional as the No. 4 seed in Class 4A, did not drop a set in two matches Friday night as they advanced to the state tournament. They defeated No. 33-seed Canon City 3-0 in the regional opener, then closed it out with another 3-0 win, this time over No. 21-seed Eagle Valley.
"It feels awesome to be advancing to the state tournament," said Niwot head coach Daisha Agho. "The girls earned it, they've played hard all season. We still have some work to do, but overall we're very happy and very excited."
In match two, Eagle Valley went up early in the first set, but Niwot settled in and dominated the rest of the way, winning all three sets 25-16, 25-15, 25-22.
"We've definitely made some improvements this last week on some things we needed to fine-tune," Agho said. "I think we were much better defensively, we stayed disciplined, the block was closed in a little bit more and we were able to shut down their outside hitters. The girls executed the game plan very well."
As she has all season, senior outside hitter Mackenzie Fidelak led the way for the Cougars. She led the team with nine kills, and also notched nine digs. Junior setter Madison Schoeder, out since the beginning of the season with an ankle injury, returned and led the offense with 31 assists.
Looking ahead to the state tournament, Agho wants her team to focus on stopping big runs from the other team.
"Right now, they're getting one or two in a row that will lead to five or ten sometimes. We've got to be able to shut it down after two, they can't get more than that," she said.
The state tournament begins Nov. 10 at the Denver Coliseum. Fidelak, who will play for Stanford next fall, is excited about the team heading into uncharted waters.
"We've never made it past the first round, but we've been talking all year about how cool it would be to have our names read walking out onto the courts for state, so it would be an incredible honor," Fidelak said.
Niwot 3, Eagle Valley 0
At NiwotEagle Valley (16-8) 16 15 22
Niwot (20-5) 25 25 25
Kills — Niwot: Fidelak 9, Gonzales 7, Shiers 7.
Blocks — Niwot: Falk 5, Shiers 2, Schoeder 2, Gonzales 2.
Assists — Niwot: Schoeder 31.
Aces — Niwot: Pearson 4.
Digs — Niwot: Pearson 12, Fidelak 9, Shiers 8, Richard 8.