Five state volleyball champions were crowned earlier this month, so now the attention turns to post-season awards and we start off with the release of our Coaches of the Year. While all state championship coaches are worthy of this award, we try to look deeper and find coaches who are building traditions at their schools, turned their program around or put together a season not seen at the school before.
With that in mind, we make our selections for 2018 Coach of the Year in all five classes and list others that should receive attention for their work this past season.
Aubree Powers of Walsh is our selection in Class 1A as she led the Eagles to their first state tournament visit since 2000. This after the Eagles won just seven matches during the 2017 season. She and the players turned the program around and captured 20 wins on their way to a state tournament bid. They could not manage a win in Denver but the Eagles improved their win total by 13 matches and Powers is our selection for this season.
Other coaches who received consideration were Dove Creek’s Veronica Spigner, Christin Sutter of Merino, Tom Milligan of Stratton/Liberty and Julie Graham of De Beque.
Dove Creek won just three matches in 2015 but the program has been on the comeback trail ever since and ended this year with 20 wins and a match shy of the state tournament. DeBeque won 17 matches this year after winning just five matches two years ago and just one three years ago. They opened the season with 13 consecutive wins.
Stratton/Liberty captured just five wins two years ago but got over five hundred this season to finish at 13-11. Merino came into 1A from Class 2A and promptly reeled off 21 match victories to earn a state tournament berth. The Rams went 2-2 in Denver beating Sangre De Cristo and Weldon Valley before falling to Kit Carson and Fleming.
This was a difficult decision to choose just one as several coaches and teams put in tremendous years but we decided on Samantha Christian of Peyton. The Panthers finished this season with a 17-8 record which matched their win from the previous four years combined; including just two a season ago. They ended their season with a loss to eventual state champion Yuma in the regional round but the loss does not diminish the amazing turnaround for the Panthers.
Several other coaches could have easily been our choice. Russ Haman led Denver Christian into the state championship match for the first time in school history. Shelbie Schenck directed Holly to the state tournament in the first year after bumping up from Class 1A. The Wildcats opened the season with five straight losses but rebounded to win 15 of their last 19 contests. They also picked up a state tournament win over Vail Mountain.
Kati Kuntz of Akron led the Rams to a respectable 13-11 season; an increase of 11 wins from her first season at the school. Tamara Creel of Del Norte led the Tigers to nine more wins than in 2017 (24) and Vail Mountain’s Whitney Armistead directed the Gore Rangers to their first ever state tournament victory on the 2A level. Meeker’s Greg Cravens led the Cowboys to a second consecutive state semifinal appearance.
For the second straight year, we head to the San Luis Valley to name our Coach of the Year with Annie Rice of Alamosa. She succeeds Candace Shaw of Centauri who was our choice in 2017. The Mean Moose of course finished the regular season at 23-0 and one of only two unbeaten teams in the entire state. Rice then led the Moose to a regional championship and a first trip to the state tournament since 2001. Once there, the Moose rallied from two sets down to stun Resurrection Christian in their opener before dropping their next two matches. They also doubled their win total from 2017 (13).
Other coaches to highlight include Lexee Marshal of Prospect Ridge as she led the Miners to their first ever state tournament appearance and a crucial league win over Faith Christian. Tonya Davies directed Platte Valley to 24 wins and the coveted Patriot league championship. They improved by 10 wins from 2017 and went 2-2 at the state tournament.
Montezuma Cortez had earned double digit victories in a season only once since 2010 until this year. Maddie Wright guided them to 16 wins this season in her first year in the four corners. Erika James led Englewood to their most wins (19) in the MaxPreps era which dates back to 2007. The Pirates also came close to hosting a regional tournament.
Our selection for this division is Juliane Mosebar of Mead. The Mavericks collected just seven wins in 2017 but this year quickly became one of the state’s best turnaround stories. They opened with a win over tradition-rich Longmont and finished with 22 wins and a trip to the state tournament. Coach Mosebar’s club went 1-2 in Denver downing Cheyenne Mountain in-between hard-fought losses to Berthoud and Discovery Canyon.
Mead wasn’t the only 4A club to experience a quick turnaround as similar stories were found at Woodland Park and Lincoln. Stacy Roshek directed Woodland Park to 20 wins and a runner-up finish in the Colorado Springs Metro. The Panthers had earned just 19 combined wins the previous two years. Eddie Jay Chacon also led Lincoln to an improvement of 13 wins. The Lancers picked up 17 wins compared to just four in 2017 and 16 combined over the previous three.
This was actually an easy choice for us as we’ve selected LaVerne Huston of Windsor as our Coach of the Year. The Wizards played mostly a 4A schedule during the regular season and despite winning the Tri Valley championship without a loss, we thought they may have been seeded too high (4th) in the 5A playoff bracket. After all, they had played just five matches against 5A opponents and won just two. Once at state, the Wizards were swept by Fossil Ridge but recovered to eliminate traditional powers Cherry Creek and Chatfield before ending their season with a four-set loss to Cherokee Trail. That effort was more than enough evidence for Windsor to justify their fourth seed and earn Huston our top coaching award.
Cherokee Trail’s Terry Miller also finished a nice season as the Cougars improved from 15 to 23 wins this season. Amy Ballon also guided Prairie View to 19 wins after grabbing just 10 victories in 2017.
Even though we bypass state champions as candidates for our Coach of the Year selections, we still want to provide some words on their efforts. Penny Isenbart of Kit Carson and Wade Baxter of Lewis Palmer in many ways, do not receive credit they deserve. Obviously both teams have plenty of talent, but keeping that talent playing together as a team and having players not worry about individual stats is sometimes more difficult than building a program. For that, they should receive credit for the work they do throughout the season.
At Lutheran, Alicia Oates did not let her team slide away after a tough second round loss to five-time state champion Eaton. The Lions battled all the way back from that first round loss to land the state championship including a high-quality five set win over Eaton in a great semifinal contest.
For Yuma, Jenny Noble kept battling with a talented group of seniors that had fallen one match short the past two years. She kept the team focused on this year and not what had happened in the past in guiding them to a fifth straight appearance in the state finals and a second title over that span.
Valor Christian’s Kaitlyn Hastings led the Eagles to a similar route to end a couple years of frustration. After falling to Lewis Palmer in the 4A finals last season, Valor moved up a division and landed the title their first season in Class 5A.