DENVER — Two seasons ago to the day, the Resurrection Christian volleyball team was ousted from the Class 2A state tournament by eventual champion Lutheran.
“They stayed and watched the championship,” Resurrection coach Caleb Howard said. “They came up to me and said, ‘Coach, that’s going to be us’ (winning the state trophy).”
His players proved prophetic as the Cougars took home their second straight state title Saturday, defeating Yuma 25-15, 25-20, 25-16 in the championship match.
Both teams reached the championship match by winning their semifinals 3-0.
Yuma defeated Akron 25-20, 25-11, 25-21. It marked the third straight-set victory by the Indians over the Rams this season.
Resurrection Christian topped Caliche 25-16, 25-20, 25-16 in their semifinal.
Yuma (27-2) hadn’t been in a state title match since it won the championship in 1990, when its coach, Jenn Noble, was one of its players.
Yuma was the top seed, something that Howard said may have worked in his team’s favor.
“I think what helped is coming in as the second seed,” he said of helping his players to not enter the tournament complacent after winning it last year.
Except for brief points in the early portion of the second and third games, the Cougars never trailed.
Senior outside hitter Preston Lienemann said the team knew the Indians had a couple of big hitters.
“We were going to have to play really good defense,’ Lienemann said. “We couldn’t make many errors.”
Abby Skipworth, a junior outside hitter, said the team spent the season knowing everyone in 2A was gunning for them.
“It was never really easy,” Skipworth said.
Still, the Cougars made it look so, finishing the season undefeated and extending the team’s winning streak to 58 matches.
Passing was a key factor in the victory.
Skipworth said the team attended a summer camp in which one of the clinicians stressed the importance of sharp passing.
“He said, ‘When you’re passing, you’re dancing with Billy,’” Skipworth said.
The team then adopted a Ken doll which they named Billy and brought it to each game. After accepting the championship trophy on Saturday, they took turns ‘dancing with Billy.’
“I attribute so much of it to their mental toughness,” Howard said of his team’s ability to win a second state crown.
Six seniors were the backbone of the squad.
“We just have great team chemistry,” Lienemann said.
“We have a bond that keeps us in the game,” said Maddy Janzen, a junior middle hitter.
Every time Yuma seemed poised to make a run, the Cougars had an answer. That answer came from six different players, making it tough to key on any of Resurrection’s big hitters.
Skipworth said it felt just as good the second time around.
“Yeah, it was sweeter,” she said of the repeat.
As for the future, Howard loses a solid core but has some big hitters returning, led by Skipworth and Janzen. His sub-varsity also looks promising.
“I’ve got a lot of hungry freshmen and sophomores coming up,” he said.
He’s got eight returning varsity players with state title experience.
And he’ll probably still have Billy to dance with.