DENVER – For Palmer Ridge’s volleyball team, the stress was all worth it.

After the No. 3 Bears won their first three matches at the Class 4A state volleyball tournament comfortably, they went back and forth with two-time defending champion Thompson Valley. It took all five sets, but the Bears prevailed and won 3-2 (21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 17-25, 15-13).

“It was a lot to take, but I’m glad we won at the end,” senior Corrie Anderson said. “It’s incredible. It just shows how hard we’ve worked.”

The adversity was there throughout the match.

Thompson Valley won the first set. Palmer Ridge won the next two, but the Eagles won the fourth and snatched all the momentum heading into the fifth set.

Palmer Ridge took a 10-6 lead in the fifth set before Thompson Valley tied it up.

There were so many moments where the Bears could’ve faltered and let the nerves get to them. But that never happened.

“One ball at a time; one point at a time,” Palmer Ridge coach Erica Bradley said. “We knew Thompson would give us a run for our money. It’s important that we focused on the task at hand and we weren’t looking too far into the future.”

The process for winning the match began last November.

Palmer Ridge lost to Windsor in the semifinals after entering as the No. 1 seed. The loss was heartbreaking at the time but paved the way for the Bears — who graduated only one senior after the 2022 season — to win in 2023.

“Those moments are big and they teach you a lot of lessons,” Bradley said. “What do you do differently? How do you prepare differently? A lot of it comes down to the mindset.”

Though the process began last fall, the success didn’t come immediately. Palmer Ridge began the season 3-2, losing to two squads the Bears likely shouldn’t have lost to.

According to senior Emily Klahn, though, that was also a part of the process.

“The beginning of the season was shaky,” Klahn said. “We finally made it over the hump and proved to ourselves that we are good enough to beat anyone.”

This year, the Bears will graduate four seniors: Anderson, Klahn, Eva LaRochelle and Kaya Kimmey.
For all four of them, winning in their last high school match was special.

“It’s super exciting,” said Anderson, who has signed to play college volleyball at Dayton. “I’m already excited for what’s to come, but being able to finish on a high note is such a good feeling.”

Klahn added, “Winning is incredible.”

The title is Palmer Ridge’s first since the 2021 spring, which was the Bears’ first in program history. That season was supposed to be played in the fall of 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it to the spring.
This one was particularly special.

Palmer Ridge took down Thompson Valley, which had won the state title two years in a row. The Eagles were the only team to win the title since Palmer Ridge’s last win in 2021.

“We peaked at the right time, and everything came together,” Anderson said.

Thompson Valley finishes the season 26-3.

The Eagles had won six in a row before the title match. Their run at state included wins over Lutheran, Cheyenne Mountain and Lewis-Palmer.