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State volleyball: Niwot sees split success in first day of tournament

The Niwot girls volleyball team celebrates a point during their win against Woodland Park in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament on Thursday in Denver. (Dan Mohrmann/
The Niwot girls volleyball team celebrates a point during their win against Woodland Park in the first round of the Class 4A state tournament on Thursday in Denver. (Dan Mohrmann/

DENVER — Niwot volleyball has put up a valiant effort during its 2022 fall campaign but on Thursday night at the Class 4A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum, the Cougars fell one step closer to seeing its end.

After winning their first match of the postseason competition earlier in the day, the sixth-seeded Cougars came tantalizingly close to upsetting No. 3 Windsor in a 22-25, 25-9, 25-21, 20-25, 16-14 second-round loss. They’ll get another chance to redeem themselves on Friday afternoon, but their season will end with one more setback.

Earlier in the year, the Wizards beat them twice, both of which were 3-1 campaigns.

“Every time that we played Windsor in the past, we’ve known that they run a very unique defense. They’ve run rotational which is unique to a lot of the other teams that we’ve played in conference,” senior middle blocker Grace Demmel said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice on playing against that type of defense. We’ve been learning from our past mistakes. We’ve been really working on learning new shots and new ways to score against them. I think that really showed through in this game, and I think we did a really great job incorporating all that.”

She believes the drive, passion and growth her team portrayed against the Wizards will help fuel them moving forward in the consolation bracket.

Niwot entered the state tournament with an 18-7 record and won the 4A Region 7 tournament on its home court last weekend to secure a bid to the Denver Coliseum on Thursday. A slow start to the year gave way to an eight-match winning streak, and the Cougars never looked back after that. They finished second in a tough 4A/3A Longs Peak League behind second-seeded Thompson Valley.

Their court camaraderie launched them into the postseason, and they’re not done yet.

They began their tournament bid with a strong, 3-1 showing over No. 11 Woodland Park that saw set scores of 19-25, 25-20, 25-17 and 25-23. And, although they gave the third-seeded Wizards a good scare in their second-round match, they ultimately couldn’t overcome their power on the court.

Despite the setback, the Cougars will get another chance to keep their state tournament dream alive when they go head-to-head with No. 12 Durango scheduled at 12:30 p.m. on Friday in the double-elimination competition. The Demons lost their first match to No. 5 Lewis-Palmer in a 3-2 effort.

“We came out and competed and I was really proud of our girls,” Niwot head coach Tony Engel said. “We were a little nervy when we started the day today and all that evaporated and we came out and competed. I just think that we’ve made so much progress as we’ve advanced through the season. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow. I think it’ll be a great day.”

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