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Volleyball: Niwot drops heartbreaker to Thompson Valley in state semis

Niwot's Grace Demmel spikes the ball ...
Alissa Noe/
Niwot’s Grace Demmel spikes the ball during the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Niwot volleyball didn’t want to go down in four sets in its semifinal match of the Class 4A state tournament.

The sixth-seeded Cougars had worked their tails off to get to this point, and it was going to take No. 4 Thompson Valley every last bit of energy to take them down at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday afternoon. The Cougars made sure of it.

When the Eagles gained the 23-20 advantage in set four, already up in sets by a 2-1 count, the Cougars found the fire that has fueled them all season long. They scored the next three points, and the two teams battled back and forth from there on out until, finally, Niwot pulled out the 30-28 final to force a fifth set.

The Eagles put them away with a 15-12 final to advance to the 4A title match and send Niwot packing. The final game scores were 25-17, 17-25, 25-21, 28-30, 15-12.

“We just wanted it so bad,” senior Zoe Gibbs said. “We just did everything we possibly could to get the ball over the net and not let it hit the ground. I’m just so happy with how hard we fought. It isn’t the outcome we were hoping for, but it is what it is. We made it this far and I’m so happy with that.”

Alissa Noe/
Niwot celebrates after scoring a point against Thompson Valley during the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Alissa Noe/

Junior libero Varshini Panuganti paced her team in the back row as she collected 28 digs and instructed the ladies around her. Freshman setter Anne Haley served as her offense’s best wing woman with 42 of the team’s 46 assists as seniors Morgan Daugherty and Gibbs led the attack with 16 and 15 kills, respectively.

The Cougars may have lost the war in the end, but they certainly won their fair share of battles throughout the 2021 fall season. Twenty-five battles, in fact.

Niwot enjoyed a perfect season, save for one day, before meeting up with TVHS in the semis. They lost just three matches prior on that one fateful day in early September during a five-team tournament. Since then, the ladies have worked on perfecting their chemistry, their court IQ and building up their confidence with each passing victory.

Now, they’ll get to look ahead to a very bright future as they return all but four seniors.

“This is one of the best teams I’ve ever coached in my 20 years of coaching,” head coach Daisha Agho said. “I want them to realize that and be very, very proud of that, that they put up a good fight. The amount of change that we’ve seen from the beginning of the season all the way up to this point now is impeccable. They peaked at the right moment, played against a really good team, took them to five.”

Earlier in the day, Thompson Valley outlasted Mead, 3-0, after a tough first game that went into extra points (27-25, 25-17, 28-18). The Mavericks, state runners-up in 2020, finished another fantastic campaign at 17-12.

Alissa Noe/
Niwot’s Anne Haley sets the ball during the semifinals of the Class 4A state tournament at the Broadmoor World Arena on Saturday, November 13, 2021. (Alissa Noe/

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