U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY — When Coronado volleyball coach Stormie Wells talks about her team, she equates it to a sundae.
Each player makes up a piece of the sundae, but it doesn't taste right without all the ingredients.
On Tuesday night, there was ingredient missing. But by the time the Cougars' 3-0 (25-13 25-12 25-15) sweep of Class 4A No. 8 Air Academy was complete, the sundae tasted just fine.
In a tournament over the weekend, middle hitter Mara Abernethy suffered an ankle injury that will keep her out for about another week. But the Cougars (7-2 overall) just plugged right along.
"We have to have a good sundae and Mara has to be the cherry," Wells said. "We can't just be all about one player, we have to know that we have each other's back when something happens."
And that they did.
The Kadets (4-3) kept pace with the Cougars early in the first set, but a blistering 19-9 run gave Coronado an early edge.
It was a similar story in the second set as the two teams were locked in a 5-5 tie before the Cougars scored eight-straight points grab a firm lead.
"Setting a tone gives us that early momentum," senior hitter Jaelyn Hershberger said. "We take that and we use it to our advantage. Starting off as strong as we did really helps."
Hershberger led the attack at the net with 12 kills. But the bulk of the offense for the Cougars actually came on the serves.
Mallory Brown and Delaney St. Pierre each registered six aces throughout the match. The team only committed five errors.
"Our serving was amazing tonight," St. Pierre said. "So was our passing and when you do that, it's easier to read where they're going to hit and it's easier to run our offense. Serving and passing were a huge deal."
The Cougars were moving so fluidly throughout the contest that it was difficult to tell they were actually short a big part of their team.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the sweep was the fact that they didn't seem shaken on the court or, perhaps more importantly, in their own heads.
"We're a very resilient bunch," Wells said. "We rely on being a complete. Last year we learned that we can't rely on just one player."
The Kadets showed moments of resiliency themselves, but it was difficult to overcome the depth that Coronado had on its side of the net.
But the good news for Air Academy is that these non-league battles against teams from leagues like the 5A Colorado Springs Metro will serve them better when they start facing off against their rivals from the Pikes Peak Athletic Conference.
"You always learn more from losing than from winning," Kadets coach Kristen Sciacca said. "We love playing these big schools because they show us the level we need to be at by the end of October."
The Cougars will have eight days off before traveling to Cheyenne Mountain. Air Academy's next three matches will be against 5A foes, with Ralston Valley next on the docket.