State volleyball: Title-hungry Longmont tops Pueblo West

MARK LEFFINGWELL
Longmont’s Sydney Wetterstrom attempts a spike during the Trojans’ sweep of Pueblo West in their first match of the Class 4A state tournament.

DENVER — The Longmont volleyball team has been through a lot this season, to be sure. So, ensuring their season ends on a high note is of paramount concern for the Trojans.

To that end, the Trojans arrived at the Class 4A state tournament intending to transcend tragedy and give the 2013 season a happy ending by winning it all. The second-seeded Trojans opened the door for their storybook ending on Friday, sweeping the 11th-seeded Pueblo West Cyclones 25-20, 25-16, 25-14 in their first pool play match.

“Nothing’s easy here. These are the 12 best teams in the state,” Longmont’s Sydney Wetterstrom said. “But we have this mentality that we need to be a well-oiled machine. We were rolling today and everything was going smoothly. Our confidence is really high and we feel like we deserve to be here. We’ve gone through so much. We’ve worked through it. We’re here finally so why not win?”

The Trojans knew junior middle Allegra Shippy was the Cyclones’ biggest hitter and thus, the greatest threat to them. But in Wetterstrom, an athletically-gifted 6-foot-1 sophomore, the Trojans found their answer.

Matched up on Shippy, Wetterstrom forced the Cyclones’ star to alter her attacks, which changed the Cyclones’ entire attack.

“I play club with her so I know all of her tricks,” Wetterstrom said. “She’s a great player and it was really fun to match up against her. We knew she was their best hitter and their best blocker so we wanted to shut her down. We wanted her to not have that big of an influence on the match. Once we made them set other people, we got on top of it.”

As the match progressed, the Trojans’ tempo and defense increased. Despite periodic runs from the Cyclones, the Trojans held their opponents to 20, 15 and finally 14 points.

Senior outside hitter Becca Mau led the Trojans with 17 kills, senior middle hitter Dailyn Johnson added eight and Wetterstrom finished with seven. Senior setter Elena Michalski had 45 assists and senior libero Kaili Brazell led the Trojans with 22 digs, including a handful of twisting one-handed stabs.

As good as their opener was, the Trojans understand the state tournament’s potential for upsets. As last year’s No. 3 seed, the Trojans lost a two-game lead and fell to sixth-seeded Coronado, ending their hopeful title run in pool play.

Longmont completes pool play against No. 7-seeded Ponderosa on Saturday.”We came here to have a good time but we also came here to play for coach and we came here to give it our all,” Brazell said. “Last year was a big upset for us and we’re not going to let that happen this year. Winning today was great and we have the state title in the back of our mind but our focus right now is to play every touch of every game.”

The players have dedicated this season, however it may end, to head coach Holli Stetson, who lost her father Gerry Boland during the September flooding in Lyons. “For Coach” has become their rallying cry and that coach has seen the Trojans’ character and resolve strengthen in response to her hardships.

Friday’s win, Stetson said, was another step in that process.

“The kids have confidence and rightfully so,” Stetson said. “We’ve coached them to understand the techniques and understand what they’re supposed to do. We’ve worked to build confidence as much as we work on technique. Especially when you get here, it’s 80 percent mental, 20 percent skill. You’ve got to be prepare to bring your game and I think the girls did.” Follow Brad on Twitter at twitter.com/BradCochi

Longmont 3, Pueblo West 0

At Denver Coliseum

Pueblo West (19-7) 20 16 14

Longmont (24-1) 25 25 25

Kills — Pueblo West: Not available; Longmont: Mau 15, Johnson 8, Wetterstrom 7, McKinney 5, Precht 4, Michalski 4, Gaibler.

Blocks — Pueblo West: Not available; Longmont: Johnson 3, Wetterstrom 2, Precht, Gaibler.

Assists — Pueblo West: Not available; Longmont: Michalski 45, Johnson.

Aces — Pueblo West: Not available; Longmont: Wetterstrom 4, Mau.

Digs — Pueblo West: Not available; Longmont: Brazell 22, Mau 16, Johnson 11, McKinney 7, Wetterstrom 6, Michalski 5, Gaibler.