Only two 3A volleyball conferences have two unbeaten teams remaining in league play and this is the week those clubs square off. Bennett faces Middle Park on Thursday to decide the top seed for the Frontier tournament and then on Saturday the Tri Peaks lead goes to the winner between Lamar and Buena Vista.
Three of the four clubs have already played this week and they all collected three game sweeps on Tuesday. Bennett took out KIPP Collegiate, Buena Vista stuffed Florence and Lamar rolled past St Mary’s. Lamar (9-0) and Buena Vista (8-0) continue to lead Colorado Springs Christian by one game in the Tri Peaks. Bennett improved to 7-0 in the Frontier and remain tied with Middle Park (6-0).
Bennett is ranked again in the top 10 this week and Middle Park is not, but the Panthers must be considered the favorite in their head-to-head battle. Middle Park has won 44 straight in conference play. Their last loss came against Bennett on October 12th, 2012 and ironically their meeting this week marks the fifth anniversary of that contest.
Middle Park has not lost a set in winning six conference matches. Their two losses overall are against 3A ranked Faith Christian and 4A unbeaten D’Evelyn. Kierra Bar (115) and Bailey Martin (112) continue to be a solid one-two punch at the net. The two combined for 15 kills in last year’s regular season sweep of Bennett and matched that number in the league tournament rematch; also won in three.
The Tigers have also been nearly perfect in conference matches; dropping just one set in seven contests. Olivia Bonstead has registered double-digit kills in every match this year and leads the Tigers with 184 for the season. She combined for 18 kills in the two matches with Middle Park a year ago.
Nakita Swingle is next on the hit list with 132 kills including a season high 23 against DSST-Stapleton. She’s been in double figures in five of 14 matches this year.
RPI wise, both teams are safely in the regional bracket with Bennett in great shape to host one of the 12 events. The Tigers are 8th in points as of Wednesday morning with Middle Park checking in at number 17. Thursday’s winner gets the chance to be the number one seed for next week’s league tournament and will host the final round of the event on October 21st.
Lamar’s only loss this season came against Colorado Academy at the Machebeuf Tournament. The Savages have reeled off 12 straight wins since but only one has been against a top 10 club. They beat Resurrection Christian at the same Machebeuf Tournament.
With a win on Saturday, the Savages have a chance to take complete control of the Tri Peaks chase as they’ve already beaten third place Colorado Springs Christian. By beating Buena Vista, Lamar can win the championship with a win over either James Irwin (19th) or Vanguard (28th).
Buena Vista is not in the same position as they still have Colorado Springs Christian left on their schedule. They take on the Lions on the 19th and have conference matches with La Junta (17th) and Vanguard (21st) surrounding that key battle.
Leading hitter Brilynd Pence has put together five straight matches of at least 13 kills and tops the Demons with 196 for the season. She started the string with 15 kills against Salida on September 12th and has followed up with matches of 23 (twice), 16, 13 and 18; all coming in conference play. Her season high is 30 against Manitou Springs in a very early but important league victory.
The duo of Kassie Schell (98) and Rachel Scott (97) are next on Buena Vista’s hitting list. Scott also leads the team with 33 aces. Lindsay Pratt tops the team with 357 assists.
Cali Clark, with 263 kills, is one of three Lamar players with at least 100 kills this season. The other two are Maddy Williams (117) and Cassie Forgue (103). Brecken Payne has added 72. Forgue (32) and Jozlyn Sutphin (21) are the top servers and Aliceson Fierro leads the team in assists with 406.
Centauri stayed perfect in the Intermountain and overall with an exciting five set win over Alamosa on Tuesday night. The win kept the Falcons one game ahead of Bayfield in the league chase. It was their second straight five set match as they also went to the limit against Pagosa Springs last week.
The two leaders meet for a second on Saturday in Bayfield. Centauri took out the Wolverines in three sets last month and the result separates the two in the league standings. With another win this week, the Falcons can become only the second team other than Bayfield to capture the league championship since 2007. Alamosa won the crown in 2015.
Coal Ridge is the second unbeaten team in Class 3A and the Titans appear to be in great shape for the Western Slope crown. They sit at 7-0 inside the conference including wins over Delta and Cedaredge who share second place. The Titans are also fourth in the RPI this week and should be making plans to host a regional tournament.
The Titans are coming off a strong showing at the Battle Mountain Tournament on Saturday; picking up wins over Golden, Alamosa, Vail Mountain and the host Huskies to land the championship.
Next up for Coal Ridge is a league match with Olathe on Saturday. They then face a tough assignment with 4A Montrose on Tuesday. A win there should keep Coal Ridge unbeaten until they host a season ending tournament. A tough field will greet the Titans there including Valley, Glenwood Springs and Pagosa Springs.
Delta and Cedaredge collide on Thursday with the winner taking over second place. Both teams collected wins on Tuesday as the Panthers beat Basalt and the Bruins topped Gunnison.
Lauren Davey leads Delta with 85 kills and she’s followed closely by Lexi Quinn with 81. Courtney Freeman tops Cedaredge with 101.
Valley’s five set win over Resurrection Christian on Tuesday pushed the Vikings into third place in the Patriot league. Both teams are 6-2 but of course the Vikings have the head-to-head tiebreaker plus the Cougars have a match remaining with Eaton next week.
Eaton (8-0) and University (7-1) remain one-two in the standings. The Reds blew past Estes Park in three on Tuesday and University ended with the same result against Sterling.
All teams are done with league play this week but Valley and Platte Valley both make the trek to Colorado Springs Christian for matches with the Lions on Saturday. Those results will impact RPI standings and post-season bracketing.
Lutheran’s three game sweep of St Mary’s on Tuesday kept the Lions alone atop the Metro conference standings. It was their seventh league win. Abby Akers finished with 12 kills; Tori Bjorgum eight and Cora Rice seven. Kenneday Johnson spent the match setting them and ended up with 30 assists.
The Lions though still have work to do in league play as their two remaining matches are with Machebeuf and Faith Christian. The clubs are both 4-1 and tied for second place. Lutheran goes to Machebeuf next Wednesday and then closes with Faith on the 24th.
Both second place teams are in action Wednesday. Machebeuf is at Prospect Ridge and Faith Christian visits Peak to Peak. Machebeuf downed Faith Christian earlier this year so they have the current tiebreaker if they both end up second.
REGIONAL TOURNAMENT QUALIFIERS
With the regular season entering the final stretch, teams are starting to concentrate on their RPI standing. The 12 teams in the final standings host regional tournaments and the next 24 also qualify. A league champion also gets in if they finish outside the top 36. Using RPI standings before matches on Wednesday, a list of qualifiers from each league is below. Teams with numbers next to their name would host if regionals were this week.
- PATRIOT: Eaton (1), University (3), Resurrection Christian (5), Valley, Platte Valley, Sterling, Frontier Academy
- METRO: Faith Christian (2), Lutheran (7), Machebeuf (10), Colorado Academy (11), Prospect Ridge (12), Peak to Peak, Skyview Academy
- WEST SLOPE: Coal Ridge (4), Cedaredge, Delta, Aspen
- INTERMOUNTAIN: Centauri (6), Bayfield, Alamosa, Pagosa Springs
- FRONTIER: Bennett (8), DSST-Stapleton, Middle Park, Pinnacle
- TRI PEAKS: Lamar (9), Buena Vista, Rye, Manitou Springs, Colorado Springs Christian, St Mary’s, Florence
- COLORADO 7: Weld Central, Englewood (coming down from 4A league)
- CONFLUENCE: Eagle Ridge Academy