David R. Jennings
Holy Family’s Megan DiGirolamo (left) and Blayke Hranicka go for a block during the Tigers’ sweep of Coal Ridge in their opening game of the 3A state tournament.

DENVER — The Holy Family volleyball team may have had concerns about its mental preparedness for the state tournament. After the Tigers’ opening pool-play match against Coal Ridge, Holy Family exited the court without a care in the world.

With a convincing 25-13, 25-22, 25-11 win over the 12th-seeded Titans, the fifth-seeded Tigers took the first step towards their goal of winning Pool IV.

Senior captain Tylynn Nelson is not easily impressed. On Friday, the Tigers left quite an impression on their libero leader.

“I felt like we played the best that we’ve played all season,” Nelson said. “Our defense was flowing, our serve-receive passing was flowing and it was the best passing we’ve had this season. We kept the ball on them and … I feel like our confidence was at its highest and that’s the best we’ve played.”

Nelson led the Tigers defense with 17 digs and power-hitting junior middle blocker Blayke Hranicka led all players with 17 kills. Senior middle blocker Claudia Pena added 11 kills and sophomore setter Sophie Mosko racked up 34 assists in the three-setter.

The Tigers certainly enjoyed their share of statistical success and led nearly the entire match. But they cleared a mental hurdle when they found themselves trailing in the Game 2 after handing the Titans seven of their first 11 points on errors.

“The captains just stepped up and said, ‘Get out of your heads, start breathing and put the ball down,'” Nelson said.

After they came back to win Game 2 25-22, the match was clearly in the Tigers’ hands while the normally solid Titans began to make mistakes. The Tigers rode an early 14-5 lead to a lopsided win in Game 3.

“It was really exciting,” Mosko said. “We prepared ourselves through team bonding and it just had us excited to try and make every play. This is a great start, especially since we won in three. That really encourages us to come out and do it again tomorrow.”

Friday marked the Tigers’ third consecutive state tournament appearance. They have failed to advance out of pool play and into the semifinals each of the past two seasons.

Head coach Bryan Winther said the Tigers look like a totally different team than the one that went 0-2 in last year’s trip to the Denver Coliseum. They will play fourth-seeded Platte Valley (19-7), which also defeated Coal Ridge on Friday, at 8 a.m. on Saturday. The winner will receive Pool IV’s semifinal berth. “Last year, the bright lights of state just kind of got to us,” Winther said. “Out here, from the moment we walked out there to the moment we back we were just settled. That made a huge difference. We were always in-system and it’s easy when that happens. It’s the first step in going to where we want to go.”

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Holy Family 3, Coal Ridge 0

At Denver Coliseum

Coal Ridge (21-5) 13 22 11

Holy Family (21-5) 25 25 25

 

Kills — Coal Ridge: Collins 7, Ryan 5, Allen 4, Hampton 3, Davis 2, Senor; Holy Family: Hranicka 17, Pena 11, Hodell 6, Weerstra 4, Plonski 2, Mosko 2.

Blocks — Coal Ridge: Allen 7, Ryan 6, Hampton; Holy Family: Hranicka 2, Hodell 2.

Assists — Coal Ridge: Bell 18; Holy Family: Mosko 34, Brienza, DiGirolamo.

Aces — Coal Ridge: Davis 2, Kanakaraj; Holy Family: Hranicka 4, Brienza 3.

Digs — Coal Ridge: Kanakaraj 12, Lund 4, Davis 3, Larsen 3; Holy Family: Nelson 17, Brienza 8, Mosko 5, Hranicka 4, Weber 2.