Timothy Hurst/Staff Photographer
COLORADO SPRINGS — Mead, proving to be the perfect fit to describe a volleyball season marred by the COVID-19 pandemic, overcame adversity throughout the regular season and playoffs to break new ground for its program.
Unfittingly, its unparalleled run came one step shy of the ultimate prize.
Led by some frighteningly powerful winners from junior sensation Quincey Coyle, and directed by their talented young coach Mikayla Martinez, the Mavericks maneuvered through an early-season quarantine, trailed in every state tournament match, and yet still found a way to make their first championship game appearance before falling to Palmer Ridge, 3-1, Thursday night at the Broadmoor World Arena.
“This team is like no team I’ve ever coached, or played on, or played against,” said second-year coach Martinez, a 2014 Mead alum. “It’s not about the talent of this team. We have great talent, but it’s more about, they love each other. There’s unison through everyone.”
For a program that had never reached the state semifinals before this year, it was uncharted territory on the second and final day of a condensed Class 4A tournament. And quickly, it turned into a wild pendulum of emotions.
Following a sluggish start against No. 1 Windsor, the Mavs responded with a victory in a wild, five-set affair that lasted into the early evening. Then, finding themselves in another hole in the championship later in the night, the formula was much the same — trailing before rallying — but a final comeback fell short in losing to the six-seeded Bears in four sets.
“Sometimes things just don’t fall your way,” Martinez said of the 25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 25-20 outcome. “It was a hard-fought battle.”
After tying a third straight playoff match at 1-apiece, Palmer Ridge pulled away.
Coyle had an ace and two ridiculous kills in a span of five points in the third to tie things at 16. Kenzie Morton, a senior, blistered a few more winners, too.
But the Bears responded with five straight points and nine of the final 13 to take a 2-1 lead. Then in the fourth, they again held off a strong push from the Mavs to clinch their first program title.
Per CHSAA, it was the first time since 2007 that neither Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain took home the classification’s top honor.
“They have great hitters, a great team and a great program,” Martinez said. “It was a great game.”
Earlier in the day, Mead pulled off perhaps the wildest win inside the tournament.
Down a set and trailing in the second to Windsor, the Mavericks found momentum. Coyle powered consecutive kills in the second set to help fuel a 10-3 run to give the Mavs their first two-point lead at 19-17.
From there, they sealed the second game after denying Windsor on a pair of set-points, then went on to dominate in the third to take command.
They never led in the fourth and never trailed in the fifth.
Coyle, who made her presence well known in the tournament as she sent kill after kill flying off the hardwood and into the arena seats, punched the finals-clinching point between defenders.
It was the second time this season the conference foes have played to the dramatics. On April 19, the Mavs lost the first two sets to the Wizards before their comeback charge ended in a fifth-set loss.
The semis win also came a day after it beat Coronado, the team it lost to at last season’s state tournament (which took place in 2019).
Coming to Colorado Springs, Mead was one of only two local programs to reach the state tournament. The other, Prospect Ridge, fell in four sets to Montezuma-Cortez in the Class 3A opening round Wednesday.