DENVER — First, Lutheran dethroned five-time and reigning Class 3A state volleyball champ Eaton in the semifinals.
And for an encore, the Lions took their place in history Saturday night as the bracket’s top seed blew past No. 6 Colorado Springs Christian School 25-16, 25-20, 14-25, 25-11 for their first 3A title in program history.
“Beating Eaton was a huge accomplishment, but we came to finish,” said Lutheran coach Alicia Oates, who led the program to a pair of 2A state titles in 2011-12 and a runner-up finish in 2013 before moving up to 3A. “All season long, the girls have had the dream of winning gold, especially after last season, getting second.”
Nearly a year to the day earlier, it was Lutheran that fell short in the 3A title game in a three-set loss to Eaton, but on Saturday, the Lions finally solved the Reds in a five-set semifinal classic.
And that set the stage for Saturday’s final against upstart Colorado Springs Christian – also the Lions – who were appearing in their first state title game since 2009, the last of a six-year run as 3A champs.
Lutheran (27-2) started fast in bolting out to a two-set lead, scoring points in bunches.
Junior middle blocker Payton Brgoch started a four-point swing with a kill and an ace as the Lions opened up a 6-3 lead. Later, it was Kennedey Johnson’s turn with two straight kills for a 9-5 advantage. Later, her ace made it 19-9, and Avery Anderson’s block solo made for an emphatic ending to the first set and a lead the Lions wouldn’t lose.
It was more of the same in the second set as Lutheran chalked up 13 of the first 18 points, highlighted by a pair of Brgoch aces.
After CSCS turned the tables in the third set, Lutheran quickly regained any momentum it might have lost, reeling off seven consecutive points and nine of 10 and rolled from there.
“We just reminded each other what got them here,” said Oates, recalling the huddle prior to the fourth set. “That’s playing for each other and loving the opportunity. Once they love the game and each other, it’s really cool to see what they can accomplish.”
That accomplishment led to a much different scene, and trophy, following the match’s final point.
“It’s a totally different experience between gold and silver,” Brgoch said. “It wasn’t very much fun watching another team celebrate (last year). Going through that helped get us to where we are now.”
And perhaps CSCS can work off Lutheran’s script for next season.
“It was exciting to get one step further,” said Lions coach Lori Currier, whose team reached the semifinals in 2014-16 before missing the state tournament completely last season. “They had experienced what the finals are like once before, and I know that helped out. We had to work out some kinks, and we played super tight for most of the match. We are losing a couple of key seniors, but hopefully, we’ll be able to reload. I know our sophomore and juniors will come back ready to go.”