BROOMFIELD — Chants of “Feed the Beast” rained down from Broomfield’s student section after another windmill spike by senior Lillia Neill. Her new coach said it’s part of her expanded role as a “point terminator.”
The CHSAA Class 5A No. 10 Eagles had started the season with three quality wins under a new lead attack, a new coach in Carisa Kessler and without their two all-state players from last fall. And Thursday, they looked to shake up the entire state scene in a home match against 4A No. 1 Thompson Valley.
Perhaps just premature.
Neill impressed, tucking shots into tight corners behind the defense. Blasts so hard, sometimes it took an extra second or so for the ensuing reverberations to fizzle out.
But after a 90-minute match (that felt even longer in a gym without air conditioning), it wasn’t enough. Broomfield (3-1) faltered with a lead late in the opening set and eventually lost in straight games for its season’s first blemish.
“They’re a great team, fun to play against. We tried a few different things to see what is working best for our team,” said Kessler, the 2007 Niwot grad and former Dawson coach and Broomfield assistant, who took over the head job from longtime Eagles coach Bob Knox this fall. “We switch it up a lot. It’s great to see what’s working, what’s not and how they battle against these tough teams.”
It’s something they’ll have to continue to build upon.
Coming into the fall, the Eagles graduated star players Emma Winter, Sophie Buschmann and their 763 combined kills that led the Eagles to a 25-4 record and two wins at the state tournament last season.
The void means there’s greater responsibility for senior leaders like Kennedy Nelson (who is the team’s standout libero) and of course Neill, who has followed up her strong junior campaign with 60 kills in just four matches.
“I’m kind of taking on the role of both Emma and Sophie, which I’m thankful to take on and I’m excited to keep going with that,” Neill said after her team’s first loss. “I’m definitely taking on that role and Kennedy is feeding us with those amazing passes and Macy (Mahoney) with the great sets. Just keep it going.”
After Broomfield thought it had won a point when a Thompson Valley player hit the ball into the net in the first set (but did not), Sarah Collins returned the visiting team’s last-ditch save to make it 21-19. There’d be no question in what the defending 4A champs did next.
Thompson Valley won the opening set, taking six of the last seven points (much of it thanks to its star sophomore hitter Avery Gibbs). It then trailed early in the second before marching out to a big lead on the strength of a kill and block from Tatum Sharp and eight straight points. It dominated the third.
Broomfield will look to get back on track at Lakewood Sept. 8.
“We are a younger team but most of us were on the team last year,” Nelson said. “Even though not all of them were starters last year, we all have that bond.”
Elsewhere in 5A …
Legacy improved to 4-0 with a straight-sets victory over Bear Creek Tuesday. Alexandra Urbina has 41 kills in 13 sets and Taylor Shepherd already has nine aces.
Fairview (1-3) snapped a three-match losing streak with a four-set win over Standley Lake Tuesday. Erie (0-1), new to the classification, lost in five sets to 4A No. 6 Windsor in its opener Thursday.
Boulder won its first set Monday at Pomona and is 0-4 on the season.
Other ranked teams …
Frederick, Holy Family and Niwot are ranked inside the 4A top 10 in the CHSAA coaches poll.
No. 8 Frederick handed No. 10 Holy Family its second straight loss to open the season Tuesday, winning in four sets. Katelin Sindelar has 44 kills on the season for the Golden Eagles, while Delaney Frank has 19 aces.
The Tigers had fallen to Broomfield last week, also in four sets. Morgan Anderson had seven kills and 16 digs in the loss.
No. 4 Niwot opens its season Sept. 6 against Silver Creek, which beat Longmont in five sets Thursday to improve to 6-1. April Conilogue and Anna Davidson each had 30 kills in the team’s first 21 sets.