Ahead of state volleyball tournament, Lamar draws on championship experience

(Photo courtesy of Lamar Booster Club)

In Lamar, the belief is that champions are born, not made.

By that theory, a number of female athletes were indeed born to be champions. They'll have the opportunity this weekend to show it once again at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament.

Lamar has an enrollment of 443 students. Like many schools in 3A or lower, the importance of sharing athletes is emphasized in order to make all sports as competitive as possible.

For the Savages, that is paying off with the current crop.

The girls basketball team won the 2017 3A state title. Six of those championship players (Baillie Kee, Taylor Chavira, Sarah Carrillo, Brecken Payne, Cassie Forgue and Cali Clark) are on the varsity roster for the volleyball team.

These girls know how to interact with each other. They know how to play together. And they know how to win together.

"Most of us know the experience and know what we need to do to win," Clark said. "That will definitely help us."

It needs to help them. Things won't be easy for Lamar out of the gate. In the first match of the day, the Savages will stand across the court from the winner of the last four state titles.

If they want to be champions, the Savages have to get through Eaton.

"When we looked and saw that we were playing Eaton, it just got us even more pumped up," Payne said. "It gave us something to prove as players."

(Photo courtesy of Lamar Booster Club)

That attitude can't be taught. Lamar doesn't want an easy path to a championship. There is no pride for them in winning a title if everyone isn't at their best. The girls want to take everyone's best shot and show that regardless of sport they are the best.

"I don't think most of us are intimidated," Clark said. "Even though they've won, that'll give us confidence and make us want to play better."

Last March, Erik Melgoza led the the team to the school's first girls state basketball title since 1998.

The Savages will be looking for their first state volleyball. They reached the 4A championship match back in 1997, but lost to Durango.

Amy Wertz is the woman tasked with using a team of gifted athletes to try and make school history.

"They have different styles," Payne said. "But in the end, they're both great coaches and we trust both of them so there's not a big difference there."

Matches begin at 8 a.m. on Friday at the Denver Coliseum and Lamar is the sixth match on the 3A docket. The team traveled to Denver on Thursday night which can be a fun, team bonding experience in itself.

But when match time rolls around, it will be all about business. The hope is that the players crossing over from basketball into volleyball can remember what it means to take care of business on the biggest stage of the year.

"State is always a scary thing," Payne said. "When you've had experience with it, I think it makes it 10 times better. So using that experience, we just want to go in at full force."