Typically for the Lyons volleyball team, the stretch of contests the Lions play in Class 2A districts and regionals represent their toughest stint of consecutive matches the entire season.
So it is comes as an interesting development that, when the 2A state tournament pool schedule was released on Monday, the Lions were matched up with two opponents they have seen in recent weeks.
When state begins Friday at the Denver Coliseum, Lyons will face Dayspring Christian and Wiggins in pool play for the opportunity to advance to the 2A semifinals. Lyons beat Dayspring Christian in a district championship and then handled Wiggins in the regional championship last Friday night at LHS.
"I think the girls are going to be very excited to learn that's the matchup we drew and when we get to practicing this week I think there will be a lot of confidence that we've had success the last few times we've played them," Lyons head coach Mason Johnson said Monday, noting the work of every single girl in the program for the season's success.
Despite the recent victory over the 2A defending champion Eagles of DCA, and despite having beaten them in the regular season as well, Lyons earned a No. 6 seed in the 12-team tournament while DCA is a No. 3 seed — a direct result of each team's finish in the ratings percentage index finalized after regionals.
For Johnson, there was an initial shock factor to that seeding. But that quickly wore off on Monday, prior to him meeting with his players for practice.
"It was unfortunate that the RPI worked against us the way it did, and I think the girls have established themselves in a way that No. 6 seed doesn't really reflect," Johnson said. "But our goal remains the same and to be honest, after discussing it, we decided as a program our seed is meaningless. There's not any team at that level we aren't prepared to face off against."
One of the benefits of being a higher seed, however, is the chance to get both pool play matches out of the way on Friday — something which 4A local qualifiers Holy Family and Niwot will be able to do in their own quest for a state title.
Lyons plays the last match of the night in 2A, facing off against Dayspring first before playing Wiggins on Saturday. Only one team will advance to the semifinals.
"Being the last match each day, you hope to control your emotions leading up to the time that you actually get to be on the court," Johnson said. "On Saturday, there's not going to be much recovery time if you make semifinals and then ultimately a championship match.
"At the same time, you get the opportunity to isolate your opponent on Friday and then again the next day — one match at a time, one day at a time."
The aforementioned Tigers of Holy Family and Cougars of Niwot are the only other local teams to make state this season — the fewest amount of qualifiers for the area in quite awhile.
However, both 4A teams have an exceptional chance to make the semifinals and could meet up in the championship match.
State tournament team capsules
Holy Family Tigers
Coach: Krista Solomon
Record (Tournament seed): 23-2 (4A No. 3 seed)
Pool opponents: No. 6 D'Evelyn, No. 10 Ponderosa
Outlook: The Tigers had a lengthy break in action between their final regular season match and their regional, but it did not seem to effect them as HFHS easily got past Elizabeth and Air Academy this past Friday. Holy Family's only losses this year are to 5A stalwarts Castle View and Rock Canyon, and they continue to build a resume that matches any other team in 4A. The squad carries a .302 hitting percentage with junior Ali Travis leading them in kills (347), but an improved block has been the key to success. D'Evelyn has lost just twice to 4A competition (both times against Valor Christian) while Ponderosa comes in with a sneaky 11-14 mark loaded with 5A opponents.
Coach: Daisha Agho
Record (Tournament seed): 20-5 (4A No. 4 seed)
Pool opponents: No. 5 Palmer Ridge, No. 9 Discovery Canyon
Outlook: The Cougars ripped through regionals last week without dropping a set, and that puts Niwot in a good mental state as it enters what could be the toughest pool in 4A. The NHS block can take over games at times, led by Emma Falk (105 total blocks) and Zoe Gonzales (76), but a lot of attention will be paid to senior Mackenzie Fidelak (.364 hitting percentage) on this big stage. Niwot and Holy Family played an epic final pool match last year, and the Cougars would love to get a chance against the Tigers again. Palmer Ridge has only lost to 25-0 Lewis-Palmer and 5A Coronado, and Discovery Canyon beat a tough Windsor to make the state field.
Coach: Mason Johnson
Record (Tournament seed): 21-4 (2A No. 6 seed)
Pool opponents: No. 3 Dayspring Christian, No. 10 Wiggins
Outlook: After an 0-2 start to the season (both five-set losses) the Lions have really been one of 2A's top teams, so a No. 6 seed really is perplexing for LHS. That said, the seniors on this team have helped put the program back on the map and would like nothing more than to finish with a title. Sarah Stevelinck (429 digs) is the sparkplug on defense, while sophomore Taylor Maguire is well-rounded and does a lot of damage in the offense (309 kills, 67 aces). Lyons will still be considered underdogs against Dayspring, who run through seniors Katie Kurtz and Megan Roberts. Wiggins went 18-7 this year after just one winning season the previous 10.