Volleyball: Five years after flood, Longmont’s Stetson honors the past while looking to the future

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Longmont volleyball coach Holli Stetson, left, speaks with Colorado governor John Hickenlooper, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and Lyons mayor Connie Sullivan during a ceremony commemorating the five-year anniversary of the 2013 flood that took the life of Stetson's father, Gerry Boland.

  • Lewis Geyer / Staff Photographer

    Longmont volleyball coach Holli Stetson has the Trojans off to a good start to the 2018 season currently ranked 7th in Class 4A.

  • Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer

    Longmont senior Annika Wetterstrom said the Trojans are focused on getting back to the state tournament.



LONGMONT — Over an eight-day span in September of 2013, a slow-moving storm dumped more than 17 inches of rain on Boulder County, resulting in a flood that devastated Longmont and Lyons, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars of damage in it’s wake.

While many residents and businesses suffered devastating losses to property and possessions due to the flood— officials believe recovery costs could exceed $1 billion in total — Longmont High volleyball coach and teacher Holli Stetson lost even more than that.

Stetson’s father, Gerry Boland, was one of four people who died during the storm in Boulder County.

In a ceremony on Monday, Stetson joined Gov. John Hickenlooper and several other elected officials to honor her late father’s memory by planting a crab apple tree in his name at the rehabilitated Bohn Park in Lyons.

Reminders like those are everywhere for Stetson each September, especially this year.

In the same way that Monday’s ceremony was as much about the area’s recovery and the progress it has made as it was about remembering the losses suffered five years ago, Stetson has come a long way in her own recovery. And much like her father did as a coach and teacher at Lyons Elementary School and Senior/Middle School, Stetson continues to honor his legacy by investing everything she has into teaching and coaching volleyball at Longmont High.

“It’s always a very emotional time,” Stetson said. “I look back at his legacy and what he accomplished as a teacher and a coach and I reflect on my own career. I hope that I’m making him proud and doing the best for my athletes and my students. I think that this year, with it being the fifth year, sometimes I look back and it seems like the time has gone quickly and sometimes it feels like it was just two weeks ago.

“The kids in my program now were in seventh grade when the flood happened so a lot of them don’t know that much about what happened. I shared a lot about what we all went through with them the other day in practice and of course I got emotional. September is always a time for reflection for me and this week I have also spent a lot of time thinking about what our team could be able to accomplish and it’s very exciting.”

Remembrance will dominate their thoughts this week. But Stetson and the Trojans also have every reason to be excited about the future.

When this week’s CHSAANow.com rankings came out on Monday, the Longmont girls saw themselves sitting in the No. 7 spot after being left out of the Class 4A Top 10 for the past two weeks. They currently have a 7-1 record after not dropping a set last week while winning the Silver Creek tournament, which included several ranked teams, and are eighth in the first RPI standings to be released this fall.

Playing a faster-tempo style this season, the Trojans are capitalizing on a strong core of returning players led by senior setter Annika Wetterstrom whose 207 assists are 17th best in the state so far. The Trojans also are thriving because of their balance and depth on offense, with five players having already registered 38 kills or more in 23 sets played.

Despite everything the area and their coach were going through in the middle of the season, the Trojans still reached the state tournament in 2013 for the fifth year in a row. They made their way back in 2015 after Stetson returned from a one-year hiatus during the 2014 season. After not making it to state in 2016 or 2017, the Trojans have set their sights on getting back there especially now that they’re building momentum.

“I think we’re doing great,” Wetterstrom, who played at the state tournament as a freshman in 2015, said. “One of our team goals is just to win conference and win regionals so we can go to state. Playing at state is such a privilege so if we got to do that this year, it would be the highlight of the season. We all see the same big picture and we’re all on the same page so that should help us accomplish our goals.”

This year’s Trojans have plenty of talent. But unlike some Longmont teams in recent memory that were led by dominant hitters such as Sydney Wetterstrom (University of Michigan) and Becca Mau (Idaho/University of Denver), Stetson said the 2018 Trojans are getting contributions from up and down the roster and form one of the more balanced, cerebral squads she has coached in her nearly 17 years at Longmont.

Even without the Division-I stars that made Longmont a 4A powerhouse for years, and also without the early-season expectations that accompanied their run of five straight state tournament appearances from 2009-13, the Trojans believe they are poised for a special season.

“I feel like our team has much more balance than in previous years,” Stetson said. “We have a lot of talented girls both in the front and the back so we get some flow that builds from the back to the net. I also think our volleyball IQ is higher. When we look at what’s in our future, we feel like we could be that team that makes some noise in the postseason.”

Brad Cochi: cochib@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BradCochi