NIWOT — To have a special season, a team must have special players.
The Niwot High volleyball team had a special season in 2014. Winning 20 matches, the Cougars won the 4A Northern League title and earned a berth to the 4A state tournament for the first time since 1997.
Out of the Cougars’ deep roster, it was senior outside hitter Cori Kirschling that emerged as their most special player. For guiding Niwot back to the state tournament, Kirschling has been named BoCoPreps.com Volleyball Player of the Year.
“I don’t think we could have had a better season,” Kirschling said. “Everybody played so well and we finished strong. We came together as a team and it was everything I could have asked for in a final season. There were seven seniors on the team who I’ve played with for a long time and it was great to finish with them. I’m really proud of myself and my team.”
One of Colorado’s most deadly offensive weapons, Kirschling finished the season third in Class 4A with 381 kills. She also led the Northern League with 53 aces, was sixth with 276 digs, and was third in hitting percentage with a .315 mark.
This type of production from Kirschling, who led the loaded Northern League in kills last season, did not surprise anyone this year. But the Cougars certainly did, sweeping conference rivals and recent playoff regulars Longmont and Silver Creek.
Against the state’s best at the 4A state tournament, Niwot went 1-1 in pool play and did not advance to the semifinals. In two state tournament matches, Kirschling averaged 15.5 kills, including a 17-kill effort in a three-set win against the Mead Mavericks.
“We had a lot of diversity on the team and people who could play different positions if needed,” Kirschling said. “We won the league and won regionals and went to state. We all pushed each other from the beginning and that allowed us to get it done.”
While Kirschling was certainly a dominant and electrifying player on the court, Cougars head coach Preston Brown said her leadership ability was just as driving a force behind the team’s success in 2014.
“I do think it was a team effort and the girls came into the season very motivated,” Brown said. “We’ve been building since last year and working on believing that we can compete at the highest level. Cori was our captain last year and she and the other seniors really worked on exemplifying what it is to be a captain and a leader.
“She was our best passer, she led the league in aces and kills and she was generating an awful lot of points. She got it done on the court and she led her teammates, and she took a lot on herself. She had some very broad shoulders and she carried more than her share of the load for our team this season.”
Kirschling’s Player of the Year award comes in a deep season that featured other standouts like Legacy’s Makenna Rockeman, Boulder’s Gabrielle Eyl, Silver Creek’s Elizabeth Potter, Broomfield’s Callie Kaiser and a handful of players from a talented and balanced Fairview squad, among others.
Kirschling said she has not yet decided where she will attend college but does not expect to play volleyball. She is currently looking at nursing schools.
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