DENVER – A year ago, Abigail Dille was overcome with emotion after helping Sedgwick County claim the Class 2A girls volleyball state championship.

After leading the Cougars to a second straight title, this one coming at the Denver Coliseum, she’s hoping that her emotions don’t overrun her.

“Last year I cried the whole (bus ride) home and I’m hoping I don’t do that again,” she said. “I just love my team so much.”

Sedgwick County faced a tough Fowler team going for its 14th state volleyball title, but the defending champs opted to play spoiler. They got a 25-23, 24-26, 25-17, 25-21 win much to the delight of large crowd in attendance who made the journey to the state’s capital city.

Even as the defending champs, the team never felt any pressure in feeling like they had to leave the Coliseum with hardware in hand.

“I don’t think so,” coach Alissa Renquist said. “We never talked about that. We never talked about defending the title. We just wanted to come here and do our best. We wanted to take it one game at a time and one point at a time.”

And that’s exactly how the Cougars did it. They swept Denver Christian in their opening match then grabbed another sweep, the next one against Meeker. In both of those matches, Sedgwick County never allowed their opponents to score more than 18 points in a given set.

Dille played a key role offensively in each match and kept that trend going in the semis and the final. Only a sophomore, she’s done more than enough to earn a reputation as someone who can compete on the biggest of stages.

“She’s already a great leader as a sophomore,” coach said. “I’m excited to see what she’ll do in her junior and senior year. I think she’s only hit the tip of the iceberg.”

The Cougars won a close first set against the Grizzlies before their momentum slowed and they dropped the second, just the second and final set they would drop all weekend.

“Our energy in the second set wasn’t very good,” Dille said. “We were all very tired, but we just had to pull ourselves together and know at the end of it that it’ll be worth it. And it was.”

They took the third then kept a steady lead in the fourth. At match point, the Grizzlies blocked a kill attempt only for Jensen Renquist to tip the ball and keep it alive and send it Dille’s way. Rather than take a big swing, though, she opted to dump it toward the back end of the court.

Fowler freshman Lawren Johnson made a valiant diving play, but couldn’t quite square up the ball to keep it in play. The Cougars erupted in celebration and it only grew knowing that a big strength of their team is youth. It’s the perfect recipe for emotion to once again dominate Dille and her teammates.

“It’s so awesome,” Dille said. “I don’t know what I would do if it wasn’t like this. It’s awesome.”