DENVER – Coming into the Class 3A girls volleyball state tournament, Resurrection Christian coach Ben Reeser had a hunch.

Of all the five classifications that would see their championships decided this week in the Denver Coliseum, 3A would be the most balanced and evenly contested, from top to bottom.

That proved to be true each night of the three-day tournament, as matches often went four or five sets. and the action on the designated 3A court continued late into the night — long after other classifications had wrapped up for the evening.

Reeser had another hunch.

The 12-team tournament would ultimately resemble a Patriot League tournament.

And though his Cougars placed fifth in the tough-as-nails league during the regular season, they topped their highly talented leaguemates when it mattered the most, including in Saturday night’s state finals.

Seventh-seeded Resurrection Christian defeated fellow Patriot League powerhouse, 11th-seeded University, in a rollercoaster four-set finals match, 25-22, 18-25, 27-25, 25-15.

“I’m so proud of the girls,” Reeser said. “Today, they played the best they have all year. … They were focused on the task at hand. They were focused on the individual touches, even, to make sure we got the right people in the right place at the right time.”

Emerging from an all-Patriot League final four — which also included semifinalists Eaton and Platte Valley — the Cougars made their fifth title match appearance and finished their campaign with a 22-9 record. This was their third title in program history but their first in 3A. They won 2A titles in 2013 and ’14.

University (21-11) was making its third finals appearance in program history, winning a title in 2021.

The Bulldogs had late-set leads in all except the fifth set, which Resurrection Christian dominated, as it sensed a championship was well within grasp.

University led 22-18 in the first set and had set-point, 24-23, in a match-shifting third set.

In both instances, Cougars senior middle hitter Mackenzie Flikkema and her title-hungry teammates refused to relent, coming from behind to snatch the title-seizing sets.

“That really showed that nothing could stop us,” said Flikkema, who finished with a team-high 11 kills to go with four assists and two stuff blocks. “Nothing got us down. We never got down and in our heads. We just kept working, and that got us to the end.”

Though University’s scrappy squad routinely kept Resurrection Christian on its heels with aggressive serving — the Bulldogs had 12 aces to the Cougars’ eight — it was Resurrection Christian that displayed championship-level composure, capitalizing on an equally impactful number of service errors for University.

For most of the match, neither team budged an inch aside from the late-set situations dominated by the Cougars.

The entire weekend left no doubt that of all the five classifications, 3A provided the most wide-open tournament.

So, even after emerging just middle of the pack from their talent-laden league and being largely overlooked as a legitimate title contender, senior setter/defensive specialist Bailey Mayes said she and her Resurrection Christian teammates never doubted they were capable of being the final team standing.

“I knew from the beginning that if we play like we should — as a team — that we could beat every team here in 3A,” said Mayes, who had team-highs of 16 assists and three aces. “And, that’s what we did.”