LONGMONT — If the Longmont Trojans are to get into regionals in two weeks, they must take care of business on the court and hope the numbers in the RPI standings do the rest.
Thursday’s game, though, was more about honoring the seniors for their final home game and to defeat their rivals for a second time this year.
Longmont (12-7, 10-4) completed the season sweep over the Niwot Cougars (8-10, 8-6) with a 3-0 win that will see them finish in the top three of the Northern League standings.
“It was a great feeling,” Longmont’s Caroline Demosthenes said. “I’ve been waiting for this moment since my freshman year. It’s really nice for it to come and to have us perform like we had to.”
Longmont entered Thursday ranked No. 39 in the RPI standings, three spots out of the top 36 that will move on to regionals. Some heavy-hitting opponents will be coming up at the Cheyenne Mountain tournament on Nov. 1 to close out the regular season that could help their chances at a climb in the RPI standings with some more wins.
“Our practices are aimed towards next week,” Demosthenes said.
They could also not afford to overlook Niwot, ranked No. 49 in the RPI standings and a young team that pushed Longmont to a five-set match on its home court earlier this year.
In the first meeting between the two rivals, Niwot won the first two sets and put the Trojans on the brink, but Longmont would respond by winning the next three sets to win. There would be little drama in the rematch with the Trojans controlling the action at the net with kills and blocks from their big hitters to win the opening set 25-11.
“We knew we had to come out strong,” Demosthenes said. “We had to have a lot of energy at the beginning of our matches. That’s going to propel us in the rest of these games and take us to a three-set win.”
Payton Jonason had four early kills and Bridget Kusbel recorded a pair of blocks for points to help the Trojans take the early lead. They would go on a 14-5 run in the set to build the big lead.
The opening set also showed how a young Niwot team that graduated eight seniors from last year’s state runner-up team is still growing and learning together, even with their first varsity season winding down.
“We usually are a little more of a threat offensively and defensively,” Niwot coach Daisha Agho said. “It was not the Cougar style of volleyball I was hoping to see tonight. We needed to play better… we’re a growing team and there is still a lot of growth for us.”
Niwot overcame a slight deficit early in the second set and rallied to lead 22-21 in set two but could not close it out with the win and fell short 25-22. The final set saw Longmont go on a run midway through to lead by eight points before going on to win 25-17.
Kusbel led the Trojans with 12 kills, Jonason had eight and Demosthenes finished with seven in the win. Niwot had a balanced attack led by Mackenzie Demmel with seven kills and finishing with six each were Hannah Waldron and Zoe Gibbs.
Time will tell the chances of Longmont getting in the regional picture, but they remain focused on winning on the court to finish the regular season and doing their part to get in the postseason.
“We need to focus in practice and do what our coaches tell us,” Demosthenes said. “We have a game plan for pretty much every team. We just have to execute that.”
On the other side, Niwot will play Holy Family on Monday and compete in the Ponderosa tournament the weekend after. Agho says the team hopes to take one more step towards improvement before the season comes to a close for them.
“I want to see more confidence out of them,” Agho said. “We do a good job of coming back, and then we kind of pull off that throttle when we get ahead. I need them to finish. Finishing some of those games would be ideal. We’ll see some great competition and what to inspire for.”