At the end of September, the volleyball directive at the Colorado Preps Network is to track and showcase the league races around our state. You know how it is each season around here. One doesn’t have to search much to find a match that makes ya double-take. Here’s a six-pack of send-it-at-your-face conference contests that should have your attention:
Tuesday, September 25: #9 Castle View Sabercats at #1 Chaparral Wolverines                 
This is the fourth consecutive season that these two programs play a non-league tournament match and then a Continental League date later. In the previous three seasons, the Sabercats took the tourney match while the Wolverines won the league contest. However, they switched the rhythm in 2018. Top-ranked Chaparral (12-1, 4-0) beat Castle View in 5 sets at the annual Regis Jam three weeks ago. That was the first of a current seven match win streak that includes a perfect 4-0 start to league play for the reigning league champions.
9th-ranked Castle View (8-3, 3-1) is the defending state champion — as is often and justifiably noted — yet have never won the Continental League since becoming a member in 2010. Their margin for error was reduced after suffering a 4-set loss to Highlands Ranch the previous Tuesday. This will be a challenging week of playing two powers from Parker — including this roadie with the current #1 in Class 5A and then a home date with #3 Ponderosa from Class 4A.
Tuesday, September 25: #7 Cherry Creek Bruins at #6 Eaglecrest Raptors
A little more than a week ago, 6th-ranked Eaglecrest (9-2, 2-0) suffered their only two losses to a pair of Top 10 teams. Those defeats occurred on the same Saturday in their own tournament. The Raptors countered quickly with a pair of wins last week to begin league play. This week, their quest for a first Centennial League crown since 2014 gets legit real with this joust at home against ‘Creek and then a road match at C.T. two days later.
7th-ranked Cherry Creek (9-2, 2-0) is enjoying a string of eight straight match wins — including a pair of 4-set wins over Mullen and Grandview to begin league play last week. The Bruins have won five consecutive meetings over their rivals from South Aurora.
Thursday, September 27: #4 Valor Christian Eagles at Chatfield Chargers
Through its first eight matches competing as a Class 5A program, Valor (8-0, 1-0) has not lost a set. That includes early season sweeps over #7 Cherry Creek and #6 Holy Family (4A) plus their league opener last week versus Columbine.
Valor earned undefeated championships the previous two seasons playing in the Jefferson County 4A division. Of the 5A programs in Jeffco, Chatfield (3-3, 0-0) may be the most likely program capable of denying the Eagles from moving up and taking the title from the bigger schools. The Chargers might also be cranky after dropping three consecutive matches to Top 10 opponents and then playing their neighborhood rival, Dakota Ridge, two days before this meeting with the 4th-ranked squad in the state.
Thursday, September 27: #6 Eaglecrest Raptors at #3 Cherokee Trail Cougars
As noted above, the challenging opportunities keep coming for 6th-ranked Eaglecrest as the Raptors travel five miles down Smoky Hill Road to volley with their GFs at C.T.
Cherokee Trail (9-2, 2-0) has beaten five Top 10s and the Cougars began Centennial League play last week with sweeps of Smoky Hill and Overland. After they host Eaglecrest, C.T. will deal with the 7th-ranked ‘Creek Bruins the following Tuesday.
Thursday, September 27: Rangeview Raiders at Prairie View Thunderhawks
In the East Metro League, this match-up always lands early or in the middle of the schedule. And it always delivers direct impact on the final standings. Each program has finished in the top three spots at the end of every season this decade.
Rangeview (7-2, 2-1) has collected five East Metro championships since 2010 — including the previous three seasons. They suffered a loss to Brighton last Thursday, so their wiggle room in league play has been depleted for 2018. The Raiders’ last loss in this series came in 2014 — which is the most recent league championship season for Prairie View (12-2, 2-0). The Thunderhawks should arrive into this contest with a 3-0 league record. They will meet the other two league contenders in the near future: Vista PEAK next Tuesday and Brighton on October 9.
Thursday, September 27: Rocky Mountain Lobos at #5 Fort Collins Lambkins
Two of the Big Three out of the powerful Front Range League revisit their in-town relationship. It must be factually noted that each has already taken a league loss from #3 Fossil Ridge. When the up judge blows the first whistle, I doubt each group of girls is thinking about anything or anybody but the familiar faces across the net.
This is about city pride. And about staying within one game of front-running Fossil in case anything unexpected occurs. And keeping poll voters, computers, and committee people on radar for the possibility of three FRL programs hosting regionals in the same town — as was the case in 2017.
Other than the loss to Fossil two weeks ago, 5th-ranked Fort Collins (8-2, 3-1) has swept their way to three league wins and has also beaten four teams that were or currently are ranked in the Top 10. The Lambkins have won the previous two of these meetings with the Lobos.
Rocky Mountain (7-3, 2-1) got an early jump on #2 Fossil Ridge last week before losing in 4 sets. The Lobos then beat Legacy to collect their second league victory.
Other notable matches on the blip screen:
Tuesday, September 25:  Ralston Valley at Bear Creek         
Tuesday, September 25:  Dakota Ridge at Chatfield            
Tuesday, September 25:  Rampart at Cheyenne Mountain (4A)
Thursday, September 27:  #3 Ponderosa (4A) at #9 Castle View                 
Saturday, September 29:  #4 Valor Christian at #8 Denver East