NIWOT — The Niwot High volleyball team had waited 15 years to be Northern League champions, and the Cougars’ current conference champion standing is the result of a long building period.
Now that they have locked up the conference title, the Cougars look comfortable as one of the teams to beat in Class 4A. Particularly at home, Niwot has been flat-out unbeatable this season.
The Cougars’ dominance on their own turf was on display Thursday during a casual 25-18, 25-15, 20-25, 25-23 win over visiting Holy Family on Senior Night.
“This was probably the last game at home for us seniors,” Cougars senior Madison Weckerly said. “We get a lot of energy from playing in our gym and we’re really comfortable here. We were really excited to play and I think we did a good job getting the win.”
A perfect 8-0 in the Niwot High School gym, the Cougars (16-3, 10-4 4A Northern) wrapped up the Northern League title while completing a long-awaited season sweep of rival Longmont (10-9) on the road last Tuesday.
Entering the contest on a 10-match win streak, the Cougars jumped on the Tigers to win Game 1 and Game 2 convincingly. Having already locked up the conference title and with a chance to close out the sweep, the Cougars opened the rotation up a bit which left a window for the non-conference Tigers (8-15, 5-9 4A Tri-Valley) to hang around.
The Tigers seized the opportunity, winning Game 3 handily before the Cougars bounced back to close out the match in Game 4.
“We started out pretty strong and we sort of let up a little bit,” Cougars senior Jennifer Townsend said. “But we came back and fought hard to close it out.”
Senior outside hitter Cori Kirschling led the Cougars with 24 kills, five aces and three blocks. Townsend dished out 43 assists and freshman Mackenzie Fidelak led the team with 18 digs.
Thursday night was the last game of their first Class 4A regular season for the Tigers, who reached the state 3A state semifinals in 2013. Currently ranked 41st in 4A by the latest MaxPreps.com volleyball rankings, they will need some help from other teams to crack the top 36 and earn a berth to a regional tournament.
While a win would have been nice Thursday, losing to the No. 10-ranked Cougars shouldn’t hurt Holy Family much.
“The girls were just struggling with being confident tonight more than anything,” Tigers head coach Dianne Johannsen said. “A lot of teams are still playing and we’ll be watching what happens this weekend. It shouldn’t hurt us losing to them because they’ve done a great job this season but we’ll obviously need a little help.”
The Cougars will finish the regular season this weekend at the Ponderosa Mustang Classic, where they will try to improve their chances of hosting a regional tournament.
“We’re peaking but we have a tough, tough tournament this weekend and we’ll be missing a couple of kids for ACTs,” Cougars head coach Preston Brown said. “But we’ll figure it out and it’s going to be a good opportunity for us to prepare for the postseason. Hopefully we’ll be very competitive and that will help our strength rating for regionals.”
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Niwot 3, Holy Family 1
At Niwot H.S.
Holy Family (8-15) 18 15 25 23
Niwot (16-3) 25 25 20 25
Kills — Holy Family: Weerstra 4, Torczynski 2, Weber, Gallagher, Giltner, Hodell; Niwot: Kirschling 24, Fidelak 9, Falk 6, Eliopulos 5, Dennis 4, Weckerly 2, Townsend.
Blocks — Holy Family: Giltner 6, Hodell 4, Gallagher 2, Smiens, Weerstra, Torczynski; Niwot: Kirschling 3, Falk 3, Eliopulos 2, Dennis, Fidelak.
Assists — Holy Family: Mosko 6, Larson, Gallagher; Niwot: Townsend 43, Fidelak 4, Peiker 3.
Aces — Holy Family: Mosko; Niwot: Kirschling 5, McCarthy, Peiker, Fidelak, Weckerly, Eliopulos.
Digs — Holy Family: Weber 5, Weerstra 3, Torczynski 2, Mosko 2; Niwot: Fidelak 18, McCarthy 16, Weckerly 10, Townsend 8, Kirschling 7.