Conference play is just getting started on many fronts but it’s a very important week for #3 Lyons as they seek the Mile-High League championship.  The Lions play host to Union Colony Prep on Tuesday and then challenge top ranked Dayspring Christian in Greeley on Thursday.  Wins in both likely leave them a win over Denver Christian later in the season from the conference crown.
Dayspring Christian is the defending state champion but the Lions can’t afford to look ahead to Thursday as Union Colony is also coming off back-to-back appearances at the state tournament.
Lyons opened the season with losses to 3A rivals Resurrection Christian and Frontier Academy but has won their last six including four straight to land the West Grand tournament title earlier this month.  The Lions had just one match last week sweeping Heritage Christian in three quick sets.  They surrendered just 35 points overall and 27 percent of their points came on aces (20 of 75).  Taylor Maguire led that effort with five while Ixcel Leeuwenburgh and Sarah Stevelinck each dropped in three.  Maguire, with 11 and Leeuwenburgh, with seven, paced the team in kills as well.
For Union Colony, Tuesday match is their only activity of the week so they can focus completely on upsetting the Lions.  They also sit at 6-2 on the season and are coming off three wins in tournament play last Saturday.  Lynndee Veik had 14 kills in the three wins and she continues to lead the team with 59 on the season.  Mayson Fago recorded 17 kills on Saturday pushing her season total to 56.
The Timberwolves won just one set in two matches against Lyons a year ago.  Overall, they finished 18-9 with a combined six losses to the Lions and Dayspring Christian.  Getting past those two in league play is one of their goals this season.
The defending champs have not been pushed in rolling to wins in their first five matches including sweeps of Peetz, Nucla, Holyoke and Otis to land the NJC Tournament title over the weekend.  As expected, returning all-staters Megan Roberts (81) and Katie Kurz (73) have been dominant; combining for 154 of the teams’ 170 kills this season.  Roberts had 68 in the tournament and Kurz added 61.  Kurz recorded just four kills against Peetz but stormed back with 17, 21 and 19 in the next three matches.
Serving has also been a strength for the Eagles.  Nearly 20 percent of their serves have gone for aces this year (72) including 45 combined from Roberts and Kurz.
Two important conference matches can be found on the Western Slope this weekend as #4 Paonia travels to West Grand on Friday and #9 Meeker meets Vail Mountain the next afternoon.  All four teams are unbeaten in very early conference play so some sorting out will start to occur with these two contests.
Paonia knocked out West Grand three times last year and dropped just one set in the process but those results likely mean little as both teams feature almost completely new rosters in 2017.  Paonia has league sweeps of Plateau Valley, Soroco and Hayden this year giving them 58 wins in their last 59 conference contests.  West Grand topped Vail Christian (3-0) last Friday in their only conference match thus far but they snapped a three-game skid overall with the win.
McKenna Palmer continues to lead Paonia in hitting; finishing with 18 kills against Soroco and 14 in the win over Hayden.  Randi Rapke added 10 vs Soroco.  The Eagles also continue to rotate through setters as Poppy Lightfoot had 23 assists and Jaquelin Mora 10 vs Soroco while Carly Horn (11) led the way against Hayden.
The match is in the middle of three on the schedule this week as Paonia also faces Gunnison Tuesday and North Park on Saturday.  For West Grand, the date with Paonia is their only court time of the week.
The Luce sisters continue to produce good results for Meeker.  Krissie leads the team in hitting with 52 kills and Kassie tops with 141 assists.  Julia Dinwiddie provides support at the net with 35 kills including a season high eight against both North Park and DeBeque.  Meeker sits at 5-1 overall with a lone loss to #3 Lyons at the West Grand Tournament.
Vail Mountain has played and won three matches with all three coming in league action against Soroco, Plateau Valley and Caprock Academy.  Sarah Evans is the main threat.  She leads with 48 kills which is nearly 47 percent of the Gore Rangers’ season total (102).  Evans is well ahead of last year’s pace where she finished with 242 kills in leading Vail Mountain to a 14-7 record including a 9-3 mark inside the conference.
During our pre-season reports, we expected the Santa Fe league chase to be a two-team battle between Hoehne and Fowler.  But based on early results, many more teams could be in the mix.  Hoehne won the league title with a 15-1 mark a year ago and while the Farmers have a win over Fowler, they’ve already dropped matches to Swink and Rocky Ford.  Those two meet on Thursday in what is now an important early season meeting.
Swink (4-0) is alone in first with a one game edge on Fowler, Rocky Ford and John Mall.  The Lions beat Hoehne in five sets last week and are coming off a three-game sweep of Crowley County.  Balance up front has been important in their start.  Against Hoehne, Brooklyn Mueller picked up 11 kills, Skyler Jones 10 and Brianna Denton nine.  The trio helped the Lions rally from one set down (2-1) to win the five-setter.
Rocky Ford took out Hoehne in four sets getting nine kills from Emi Romero and eight from Kierstin Lucero.  The Meloneers, who were below five hundred in conference play last year (6-8), lost a share of first place with a four-set loss to Fowler.
The best non-conference meeting of the week is set for Saturday between #2 Yuma and #4 University (3A).  The Indians are 5-0 and have not lost a set this season.  Two of the wins are against 3A opponents Brush and #2 Resurrection Christian.
Yuma’s offense is led by the duo of Chasey Blach (80 kills) and Cody Robinson (50).  Blach is averaging 18 kills against 3A rivals including a season best 19 in last week’s win over Brush.  Robinson played just one set against Brush and had just one kill but registered 30 in the previous two.  Robinson tweaked a knee in the win over Brush but coach Jenny Noble indicates the junior has practiced this week and will be ready to go.
Another key component of the Indians attack is the service line where they average nine aces a match.  Blach leads the category with 13 and Reagan Nolin has 12.  Kenedy Roth (159) is averaging nearly 32 assists per match.
University (4-2) won three of four matches at the rugged Lewis Palmer tournament last Saturday beating Windsor, Montrose and Ralston Valley.  They lost to Niwot, a top ten team in 4A and earlier in the season fell short (3-0) against four-time defending state champion Eaton.
#9 Simla has rematch with Kiowa on Friday.  The Cubs downed the Indians 2-0 at the Bennett Tournament last Saturday.  Jerraldawn Rector paced the Cubs with 14 kills and Riley Maranville added nine.  Chloe Duffy directed the offense and finished with 17 assists.
Esther Janes topped Kiowa with 13 assists but the team totaled just the same number of kills in the two-set loss.  Freshman Ashley Collitt led the way with seven.  Kiowa is 3-3 overall including a five-set loss to Pikes Peak Christian.  The Indians also meet Evangelical Christian on Tuesday and Colorado Deaf and Blind on Thursday.