DENVER -- As the final hit fell out of bounds, Resurrection Christian’s volleyball team had to pause for a moment to await one more ruling from the official.
Once that last point had been awarded to the Cougars, the celebration began.
Resurrection Christian put together one of its most impressive matches of the season on the biggest stage, emerging from the Denver Coliseum with a 25-18, 25-19, 25-13 sweep of Lutheran Saturday night in the Class 2A state championship match.
The victory capped an undefeated season for Resurrection Christian (29-0) and gave the squad its first state title.
“I’m kind of in shock right now. We’ve been working so hard all season for this,” Cougars sophomore Abby Skipworth said. “This has been our only goal and it’s the only thing we’ve been thinking about. This means everything to us.”
Junior Preston Lienemann led the way with 15 kills and Skipworth chipped in with nine kills and 17 digs. Senior Carly Whitham had 11 digs and junior Madison Webb tallied 39 assists.
Resurrection Christian took a tough road to the final. After winning its pool, the Cougars took on ninth-seeded Yuma in the semifinals and had to hold on for a five-game victory after the Indians rallied from two games down.
Cougars coach Caleb Howard said his team wasn’t on top of its game early Saturday morning against Ridgway, but he knew the squad would be ready when it counted.
“I really think it was much more that we came out ready to play,” Howard said of the impressive showing in the title match. “What has set this team apart from some of the other great teams that I've had is they've consistently risen to the challenge.”
Lutheran (25-3), which had captured the 2A title in 2011 and 2012, knocked off Fowler in four games in the other semifinal. The Lions took an early 7-4 lead in the first game Saturday night, but Resurrection Christian scored seven of the next eight points and never looked back.
“I think we realized that we’re overthinking things,” Whitham said. “Once we realized ‘we can do this if we try’ it really clicked and we turned on our game.”
The balance was evident in the Cougars’ lineup, as Lienemann, Skipworth, Jessica Meyer, Maddy Janzen and Webb each had big kills on the night. Lutheran trailed by nine at one point in the second game before closing to within three, but Skipworth put the game away with a kill.
Lutheran never really got close in the deciding game despite some big kills from senior Connie Olson and sophomore Jordan Meisner down the stretch.
Last season Lutheran knocked Resurrection Christian out of the state tournament, and the Cougars never quite forgot that moment.
“We definitely wanted to get revenge on them for sure because we knew that they’re a great team,” Skipworth said. “They have some girls who can hit the ball and we had to play well. It just fueled our fire.”
The Cougars graduate only two seniors in Whitham and Michaela Boehler, and the players are looking forward to establishing a state tradition in the mold of Fowler and Lutheran.
Howard hadn’t quite gotten that far yet, wanting to live in the moment for the time being.
“I haven’t thought about next year too much, but we know we’re returning most of our team,” Howard said. “But we really didn’t think about next year. We knew you have to take each chance you have; we had a chance this year and I’m so glad we took it.”