DENVER - In the end, Cheyenne Mountain just had too many weapons. In a rematch of October's Pikes Peak Athletic Conference championship game, Cheyenne Mountain swept Lewis-Palmer 3-0 (25-21, 25-12, 29-28), but this time for a much bigger prize.
For the first time in three years, the Indians are the Class 4A volleyball state champions.
"There was something magical about this team early on," coach David Barkley said. "We knew the talent was there, but we also knew in 4A, there were plenty of good teams like Lewis-Palmer that we would have to fight through."
All season, the Indians (27-1) overall proved to be up to the challenge. They suffered only one setback in a 3-1 loss to Eaton (who came away with the 3A title for the third year in a row), but then cruised through the rest of their competition. That included a 3-1 win over the Rangers (25-4), the first in-state loss for the two-time defending champions in two years.
"It gave us a lot of confidence, but it was especially humbling," senior hitter Bethany Cullity said. "We knew we had to work that much harder to beat them again so it just made us work 10 times harder."
Cullity led all Cheyenne Mountain attackers with 15 kills on the match. She came through in clutch situations, putting the ball down in crucial moments that either pulled the Indians even or gave them a lead.
But she was playing with a purpose.
One of her best friends, Celeste James, passed away at the start of the 2015 season and the loss took an emotional toll. James was set to play for Cherokee Trail, who came away as the 5A champion.
"(This moment) is extremely special," she said. "I did it for her and I did it with my team. We did it together and I couldn't ask for anything more."
Like the league championship game from just over a month ago, the Rangers had difficulty defending the Cheyenne Mountain attack. There wasn't a position on the floor that could be construed as a weakness and in the end, Susan Odenbaugh's bunch could match-up.
"They have really strong serving and a really tall front row," Odenbaugh said. "They've got so many weapons on the front row at all three positions and the block was struggling a little bit."
If there was one thing the Indians were aware of, it was their strength in the front line. The versatility and the options they had helped them remain dominant all year and come away with their sixth championship trophy in eight years.
"That was our biggest threat," senior Elizabeth Wayne said. "We can go to anyone in the front row, or the back row so it's always hard for other teams to defend that."
As Barkley looked as his newly won hardware, he couldn't help but think about just how much talent was on the floor during the 4A title game. It doesn't escape him that the last eight state titles have come from one league and only from two teams. But unlike the last two years, he wanted the first-place trophy to reside in southern Colorado Springs rather than monument.
"I called dibs (on the big trophy)," he said with a laugh. "For us to win that against a team that good is a huge compliment to our program."