LONGMONT — Winning meant a chance to play for a regional berth for both ninth-ranked Lyons and Longmont Christian on Tuesday night. Losing meant an earlier end to the season than either team expected.
Playing with equal parts aggression and desperation, both teams fired their best shots at the other and control of the match was never with either side for long. But it was the Lions who left Skyline High School still alive for the weekend’s round-robin tournament final, defeating the Warriors 22-25, 25-19, 25-17, 28-26.
“They played really, really well,” Lions senior outside hitter Madeline Keen said. “We played them at the beginning of the season and it was not like that. It took a little while for us to wake up and adjust and start playing. We just focused on keeping the ball in and playing together. This could have been our last night if we didn’t win this match.”
With the preliminary District 7 win, the Lions advanced to the district finals at Alexander Dawson High School beginning at 3 p.m. on Friday. The top three teams will qualify for a regional tournament.
At the district finals, the Lions will face top-ranked Resurrection Christian and Dayspring Christian, which essentially is ranked 11th by virtue of its top position among the 2A “others receiving votes” in the CHSAA top 10 this week.
“We’re going in there as confident underdogs,” Keen said. “We know we have three of the best teams in our district so we want to go in there and take care of the teams we should take care of.”
Keen had eight kills, as did sophomore Erika Ivkov. Sophomore Meagan Keen led the Lions with 13 kills, tying Longmont Christian junior Allison Cochran for the most kills in the back-and-forth match.
Right off the bat, Game 1 was a circus of runs from both teams.
The Lions took a quick 5-0 lead to open the match. The Warriors responded with an 8-0 run of their own, which they quickly built into a 20-11 lead. Despite an 8-0 run from the Lions, the Warriors held on to break a 21-21 tie and win 25-22.
In Game 2, the Lions came from behind in the second half and rode a 14-3 run to cap off a match-tying 25-19 win. Game 3 was tied 11-11 before the Lions took control again, this time winning 25-17.
The deciding Game 4 was knotted at 24-24 before the Lions eventually outlasted the Warriors 28-26.
Lions head coach Jeff Klipstein said he was impressed with how much tougher the Warriors played than when the Lions beat them 25-13, 25-13, 25-13 on Aug. 30.
“I want to give them credit,” Klipstein said. “Their block was much better than I expected and what I remembered. Their defense was really good. They gave us everything we could handle tonight, for sure.”
Longmont Christian senior outside hitter Carolyn Mitschke, who had 11 kills and 27 digs, said the Warriors never felt like they were out of Tuesday’s match.
“We all played with all our heart and we fought for every single point that we could,” Mitschke said. “I never felt like it turned their way. I still felt like we were always in it the whole time.”
Before the season began, both teams had high expectations for how far they might advance.
After falling just short in 2012, the Lions were hungry for a second shot to qualify for the state finals in 2013. Having won 15 matches a year ago, the Warriors returned this season with a realistic chance to win a school-record 16 matches before injuries to Mary Dean and Sarah Robbins slowed their progression.
“We battled tonight but we battled a lot this year,” Warriors head coach Lester Thorne said. “We had some tough injuries early on that were tough to come back from. But we also had everyone step up, including some younger girls, and we made the most of it. We knew if we came to play tonight it would be a great match and it was. The girls gave it everything they had.”
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Lyons 3, Longmont Christian 1
At Skyline HS
Longmont Christian (8-13) 25 19 17 26
Lyons (14-6) 22 25 25 28
Kills — Longmont Christian: Cochran 13, Mitschke 11, Ehr 6, Moore-Kneip 5, Jauregui 2, Stair; Lyons: Me. Keen 13, Ma. Keen 8, Ivkov 8, Stevelinck, Christiansen 3.
Blocks — Longmont Christian: Hefner 2, Moore-Kneip 2, Cochran, Mitschke, Ehr; Lyons: Ma. Keen, Ivkov.
Assists — Longmont Christian: Stair 31, Hefner 2; Lyons: Boxrud 21, Stevelinck 14.
Aces — Longmont Christian: Stair 4, Jauregui 3, Dean 2, Ehr, Mitschke; Lyons: Ma. Keen 5, Me. Keen 2.
Digs — Longmont Christian: Mitschke 27, Jauregui 22, Stair 12, Cochran 11, Dean 9, Hefner 3, Ehr 2, Rose; Lyons: Boxrud 17, Ma. Keen 14, Stevelinck 10, Christiansen 9, Roth 6, Me. Keen 6, Ivkov 6.