With conference matches starting to trickle into the 3A volleyball schedule, teams are using the early contests to stay in position for a league championship charge later in the season.  #3 Valley has already picked up such a win and many other teams such as #6 Bayfield and #7 Lutheran will try to do the same later in the week.
Valley kept a share of the early Patriot lead by downing #8 Sterling in three sets Tuesday night.  The Vikings improved to 2-0 in conference play and remain in first with Frontier Academy, Resurrection Christian, and University.  Four-time defending state champion Eaton has yet to play a conference match with early wins over Valley and University coming in non-league activity.
Delaney Eckhardt paced Valley with 15 kills, Kendra Sotelo had 10 and Kenzie Ray seven.  Hallie Diederich led the team in aces with five and assists with 38.  Sterling, which dropped to 0-2 in conference play, finished with 26 kills including 14 from Kyndall Feather.
While Faith Christian is the expected winner of the Metro league, two of the Eagles top challenger square off Wednesday night.  That’s when #7 Lutheran goes to Colorado Academy.
Lutheran opened the season with back-to-back losses to Valley and Platte Valley but has reeled off seven straight wins including in-state wins over Academy and Elizabeth.  Payton Brgoch had 11 kills against Elizabeth raising her team leading total to 88 for the season.  Abby Akers and Tori Bjorgum added seven kills apiece and they sit second and third on the team in kills with 68 and 52 respectively.
Despite losses to Resurrection Christian and defending 1A state champion Fleming, Colorado Academy (6-3) still put together a strong showing the Machebeuf Tournament.  The Mustangs picked up wins over top 10 opponent Lamar and beat perennial contender Manitou Springs.  Maria Watters, with 62 kills, leads a balanced offense which also includes Merril Rollhaus (55) and Kyra Kurtz (51).
#6 Bayfield continues their Intermountain league rivalry with Pagosa Springs on Saturday.  It’s the first of two meetings between the two.  The Wolverines have dominated this series winning the last 26 including sweeps in 13 of the last 15.  Pagosa Springs last topped the Wolverines on October 12th, 2007.
The Wolverines this week are battling through the loss of standout senior Jade Pascale who suffered an injury at the Lewis Palmer Tournament last Saturday.  She recorded 192 kills as a junior and led the Wolverines with 11 in a conference opening win over Alamosa but may be out for the entire season.
Without Pascale in the lineup, the Wolverines still posted a quick three set win over Aztec NM on Tuesday night.   They went 2-2 at the Lewis Palmer Tournament beating Broomfield and Valley before falling to Pueblo West and Niwot.
Pagosa Springs is battling with consistency.  After a promising 2-0 start, the Pirates have lost four of their past six.  A win over Bayfield would easily get them pointed back in the right direction.
Faith Ahlhardt is the top hitter for Pagosa Springs with 88 kills.  Morgan Lewis has 40 and Taylor Lewis is third with 34.
Tri-Peaks volleyball fans could be witnessing a changing of the guard in that conference.  Perennial conference champion Colorado Springs Christian has already suffered a league loss to Lamar so they’re a game back of the Savages, Rye, Buena Vista, and Florence.   The first-place pack will thin a bit more on Saturday when Lamar tangles with Rye.
Lamar used a strong 4-1 performance at the Machebeuf Invitational to move into the top 10 this week.  Included in their run was a 2-1 win over #2 Resurrection Christian.  A loss to Colorado Academy in pool play prevented the Savages from reaching the championship match.
Sophomore Cali Clark, who was instrumental in helping the Savages land the 3A basketball crown last March, is also a very good volleyball player and leads the team with 96 kills.  Cassie Forgue is second with 56.
Buena Vista kept pace with the leaders by sweeping Salida on Tuesday night.  Both teams were unbeaten in conference play going in.  The Demons collected 15 kills from Brilynd Pence in pushing their overall record to 6-2.  They’re off the rest of the week but Salida has another important date with Rye on Thursday.
Middle Park and Bennett again appear headed for a showdown to determine the Frontier league.  That meeting happens on October 12th.  Middle Park has won 38 straight conference matches and should extend that streak with their league opener against KIPP Collegiate on Wednesday.  Bennett, which last beat Middle Park on October 12th, 2013 is 2-0 in league action this year.  They picked up a non-league sweep over Limon on Tuesday night.  Olivia Bonstead popped 12 kills, Nakita Swingle eight and Chloe Church seven.
The Tigers return to Frontier league play against DSST-Stapleton on Thursday night.
Aspen and Gunnison have each won two Western Slope matches but Coal Ridge still seems to be the team to beat.  The Titans have played just three matches on the season and their conference opener is until Saturday at Moffat County.  Paige Harlow paces Coal Ridge with 31 kills and Freshman Taylor Wiescamp is next with 24.  Kenzie Crawford has 86 assists as well.
A key early match is set for Thursday as Delta goes to Gunnison.  The Cowgirls beat the Panthers 2-1 in tournament play earlier this season behind six kills from Elizabeth Shaw.  Lauren Davey (7) and Lexi Quinn (6) led Delta with a combined 13 kills.
Other than the Valley-Sterling match on Tuesday, the lone Top 10 clash in 3A features #4 University on the road to 2nd ranked Yuma (2A).  It will be a tough test for the Bulldogs as they face a program that’s played in the last three 2A state finals including a championship in 2015.
A talented junior class of Chasey Blach, Cody Robinson and Kenedy Roth has led the Indians to a 6-0 start which includes a three-set sweep of Resurrection Christian.
University went 3-1 at the Lewis Palmer Tournament beating Windsor, Montrose, and Ralston Valley.  The lone loss came against 4A power Niwot.  Coach Lindsay Brown’s club was back on the court Tuesday night and collected a three-game sweep of 5A Brighton.