Extremely early in the Class 2A Volleyball schedule there’s a very important matchup inside the Santa Fe where #5 Hoehne heads to Fowler.  The teams were one-two in the conference standings a year ago and expectations are they will battle for the crown again.  Tuesday night’s match is the first of two league encounters between the Farmers and Grizzlies with round two set for September 26th.
The clubs met a whopping four times during the 2016 season with Hoehne taking wins in each.  Both conference matches went five sets with Hoehne grabbing a four-set win in districts and a three-set sweep at the state tournament.  Most of the key players from both teams return so we should expect more tight battles in 2017.
Tuesday’s match serves as the season opener for Fowler but they pushed the Farmers to five sets in the same scenario last year.  Elizabeth Hagerman is back in the lineup for the Grizzlies after leading the team in hitting as a junior.  Hagerman picked up 63 kills against Fowler last year including 23 in the second match.
Hoehne opened their much anticipated 2017 campaign with a five-set win over La Junta last week winning set five 15-9.  Brittanie Hill (12) and Shaelyn Walton (9) combined for 21 of the team’s 38 kills.  Walton also added eight blocks.  Tiffany Montoya and Jaylynn Tortorelli each provided 15 assists but the team will want to improve on their 11 serve receive errors.
Against Fowler last year, Walton reached double figures in kills during all four matches and finished with 49 overall.  Hill had 34 kills in the four matches but reached double figures in only one.
The lone top five matchup on the schedule this week is also Tuesday night as #3 Lyons entertains #5 Resurrection Christian from Class 3A.  Resurrection Christian topped the Lions in four sets a year ago but the match was played in late October instead of week one.  The Cougars are coming off a season opening three-set loss to #2 Yuma last Friday and their date with Lyons continues a brutal early season slate.  They have Sterling and Faith Christian, top ten opponents in 3A, on the schedule next week and will also take part in the Machebeuf tournament.
Against Yuma, top returning hitter, sophomore Morgan Watson played just one set and did not pick up a kill.  She had 10 against Lyons as a freshman.  With her not on the floor, Resurrection Christian turned to junior Kaitlyn Newbanks and she led the way with 15 kills.  New setter Bryce Lieneman dished out 24 assists in her first start.
Lyons finished last year’s match with Resurrection Christian with 31 kills.  They were led by the trio of Jayla Harding (9), Taylor Maguire (7) and Ixcel Leeuwenburgh (6) and all three were scheduled to be back in the lineup this year but Harding has transferred to Silver Creek (4A).  The match will also start a busy week for the Lions who look to defend their title at the West Grand Tournament Friday and Saturday.
The Lions will be placed with Clear Creek, Peyton and Meeker in pool play at that event.  Of those three, only Meeker had a winning record (16-9) a year ago.  The Cowgirls this year are under the direction of Greg Cravens who moved over from Custer County and he led them to a three-set win over North Park in their opener last week.  Krissie Luce had 13 kills in the win and Julia Dinwiddle added eight.  Kassie Luce had 26 assists.
Host West Grand, which lost to Lyons 3-1 in the finals a year ago, is favored in Pool B as they will meet Gilpin County, Sanford and Cedaredge in the early going.  Those three teams combined for a 29-36 record last year and West Grand swept all three in the pool round a year ago.  The Mustangs though feature a much different lineup this year as Sydney Ritschard (166) and Hailey McNichols (108) step into the top hitting roles.  Ritschard had 27 kills in the tournament last year and McNichols 10.
The Mustangs enter the tournament ranked sixth in the pre-season and will have a home match with Moffat County on Thursday for a quick tune-up.
#10 Denver Christian is another ranked club in tournament action late in the week.  For the second straight year, the Thunder will be the smallest team in the field at the Glenwood Springs Invitational.  They went 2-2 there a year ago losing to Pagosa Springs and Glenwood Springs before beating Roaring Fork and Montezuma Cortez.
The schedule is similar this year as the Thunder open with Grand Valley (3A) and Pagosa Springs (#10 in 3A) on Friday and then Steamboat Springs (3A) on Saturday.  The other side of the bracket features Rifle, Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs and Montezuma Cortez and the Thunder will also meet one of them in cross-bracket play.
Hally Herder (306) was second on DC’s team in hitting last year and finished the two-day trip in Glenwood with 19 kills.  She used that experience to reach double figures in 15 of the final 22 matches.  Jenna Peters had just two assists in the opening loss to Glenwood Springs but then handed out 49 in the final three matches.
Limon (10-15 last year) received some pre-season top 10 votes this year and the Badgers have a chance to make some noise early on with matches against #2 Yuma (Thursday) and #9 Simla (Saturday) this week.  The Badgers had the same schedule a year ago and lost both, taking one set from the Cubs after being swept by the Indians.
Although the Badgers lost their top hitter to graduation, a good nucleus returns including Junior Anna Weisensee and younger sister Amy (Sophomore) who were second and third in kills last season.  Another player to watch is sophomore Sidney Hines.  Limon had just nine kills in the loss to Yuma last year but bumped that number to 22 against Simla including a team high five from Hines.
Simla topped Calhan 3-0 in their first 2017 match.  Jerraldawn Rector opened her senior campaign with a team best nine kills.  Riley Maranville added eight and Chloe Duffy chipped in 19 assists as the Cubs were not threatened.
Yuma looked good in their opening three-set win over Resurrection Christian last Friday getting a combined 30 kills from Chasey Blach (17) and Cody Robinson (13).  Kennedy Roth added a team high 36 assists.  Those three along with Kyle Rayl also reached double figures in digs during the win.
The match with Limon is the first of two consecutive matches for Yuma as they also visit Sedgwick County on Friday.  Later this month the Indians will get tested by the likes of University (#3 in 3A) on the 16th and Lyons (#3 in 2A) on the 22nd.  They also have a nice rivalry match with Wray on the 28th.
Wray is coming off a state tournament appearance and a 16-win season.  They have two matches this week against Arickaree/Woodlin on Tuesday and Otis on Thursday.  The more difficult test is Thursday as the Bulldogs are traditionally one of the best programs in Eastern Colorado in any class.  Otis won last year’s match in three sets outscoring the Eagles 50-20 in the first two games.  Wray made a push in set three but still came up short 28-26.  Parker Jones and Paige Brown combined for 19 kills in the loss while the rest of the team contributed only seven.
#4 Paonia opens a new volleyball area on Tuesday at home against Plateau Valley.  It will be the Eagles first match for new coach Karla Head who succeeds Krista Carsten at that post.  Between 2012-16, Carsten led the Eagles to a record of 121-16 including a sterling 55-1 mark in league play.
The Eagles will be favored to beat Plateau Valley and Norwood as well on Thursday but they will have several new faces in the lineup to go along with the new coach.  Four of the top five hitters from last year’s club have graduated leaving McKenna Palmer (244 kills) as the only returnee at the net.  The Eagles will also need to develop a new setter to replace the graduated Emily Pieper who ended her career with over 11-hundred assists.
Colorado Preps is asking assistance for volleyball photos and videos this year.  We’re putting an emphasis on more photos on the website and will be debuting a new plays of the week video feature next week.  If you have a few photos or top video play from your team at any point this season, send us the information by email to [email protected].  We’ll do our best to include in our coverage.