In 2016, the Holy Family volleyball made an unprecedented run to the Class 4A state championships game and finished runner-up to juggernaut Lewis-Palmer.
Having now put together three straight seasons with 20 or more wins, the Tigers (23-2) are back in the state title hunt as the No. 3 overall seed. Before they kick off state tournament pool play on Friday, I caught up with head coach Krista Solomon to see what's going with the Tigers.
Question: Krista, it has been yet another outstanding season so far for the Tigers. Could you give me your thoughts on the fall so far and give me an idea of what has been the defining theme in 2017?
Solomon: I think after last year, being able to get to the championship match really set the tone for us from then on. The girls are focused and everybody wants to get back into that match. It has been our focus to continue to play at that level and make sure that when people talk about the top teams, we want to stay in that conversation.
And we have six seniors this season so we've talked a lot about leaving a legacy. A lot of our seniors have been on varsity for a few years and others were swingers up until this year and they've really stepped up and made an impact in a number of different ways. Whatever we've asked of all of them to do, they've done it, and we want to send them off on a high note.
The Tigers came within one win of a 4A state championship last season. What is the goal this season and what do you see as your greatest obstacles?
Obviously, we'd love to be the first team to bring a volleyball state championship to Holy Family. I think since Holy Family has been 4A, no other team has been able to win a championship either. There are some really strong teams in 4A and Lewis-Palmer is the obvious favorite. Niwot is also really good and we're glad we won't have to see either of them until a possible state championship game.
We're obviously excited to see either of those teams, but it has been a focus of ours to not get caught up in who is on the other side of the net. The most important team on the court at any time has always got to be us. If we take care of our side of things, the rest will take care of itself.
You're the top seed in a pool with D'Evelyn and Ponderosa this Friday. What are you expecting from pool play?
We haven't had a chance to see them during this season but what we've heard is that both play really good, solid defense. Each of them have different hitters who do things differently so we've been working hard on defense and our goal is to make sure that our defense can outplay anybody's out there. We'll have to be smart and purposeful with every ball.
I don't know about the other pools, but I think our pool could be one of the tighter ones.
You have a number of players who have gotten plenty of attention this season. Who is an unsung hero on your team and why?
I would probably say our libero, Peyton Frank. I think she's one of the best in the state. Her numbers are great but she really does so much more for us. Our whole sophomore class has really been unsung heroes. They've played a lot of JV but they've also turned around and played a significant role for our varsity whether it's playing back row or front row, or just being supportive and positive.
As I'm sure you're aware, there is a proposal moving forward to change the volleyball state tournament to a bracket format. Would you be for or against making that change?
You know, I think for volleyball, I do kind of like how it is. Maybe it's just because we're used to how it is but I like the idea of pool play and the guaranteed two games. For volleyball, I like the idea of having to beat two teams and be the top team in your pool. There's some pushback about how many games is too many in two days, and we've had years when we've played a ton at state, but don't think it's too much.
Maybe a true bracket format is more like how other sports do it. But I really like how we get everyone in the Coliseum and the environment it creates. Maybe it's just the nature of volleyball, but I do like how it is now.