MONUMENT — The script couldn't have been written any better for the senior duo of Alexa Smith and Nicole Montgomery. On senior night, the Lewis-Palmer Rangers (18-0 overall, 7-0 4A Pikes Peak League) played host to Cheyenne Mountain (15-2, 6-1) in a battle of the two teams highly regarded as the best in the state as they reign atop the 4A volleyball rankings.
By the end of the night, Smith and Montgomery had said goodbye to their home crowd and claimed the Pikes Peak League trophy as they swept the Indians 25-16, 25-23, 25-21.
"Coming into it, we felt really pumped because Cheyenne Mountain was such strong competition and we knew it was going to be a good game," Montgomery said. "(Coach Susan Odenbaugh) said if we lose or win that we would learn from this experience."
The Rangers controlled the first set, feeding off the emotion from the crowd. They took a 16-9 lead early, maintained control and won 25-16 as Smith earned the final point with a hard kill.
"She's very humble and meek," Odenbaugh said of her star hitter. "But in tight games she's going to look right at her center and say 'get me the ball because I'm going to put it away.'"
Once the initial jitters were out of the Indians' system the match began to play out like a battle of the top two teams in the state. The Rangers jumped out to a 11-4 lead in the second set, but Cheyenne Mountain refused to give in.
The Indians battled back and pulled to within one point, highlighted by a kill from outside-hitter Bethany Cullity. They eventually took a 15-13 lead, but the combination of timely kills from Montgomery and blocks from sophomore Elizabeth Reich brought the Rangers right back.
They eventually fell 25-23 with Smith once again getting the game-ending kill.
"Once we got rid of our nerves in the first game and got in our system, we scored points," Indians coach David Barkley said. "When we got them out of their system, they struggled as all teams do."
The third set played out in a similar fashion as the second. The Rangers jumped out to a quick lead, but the Indians battled back and were able to stay close. They gained some momentum to bring the score to 21-17, with the Rangers still holding the lead.
But that momentum was quickly squashed with yet another devastating kill from Smith, who finished with 17 on the night. The Rangers took the third set 25-21, giving them the sweep and an undefeated run through their league.
"Cheyenne Mountain is a really good team and I think this win just shows how good (our) team can be," Smith said. "This means everything, it couldn't have ended any better than this."
With both teams holding victories over the state's No. 1 ranked 5A team, Rampart, there is a perception out there that Lewis-Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain are the top two teams in the entire state, regardless of class. A 3-0 sweep for the Rangers would make them instant favorites to win another state championship, but Odenbaugh cautions not to read that much into Thursday's win.
"With a 3-0 win, and you look at the sets, it could've gone either way," she said. "It was nice that we came out and got a three-set win, but they played us tough."