COLORADO SPRINGS — After getting dominated in the third set, Cheyenne Mountain knew it just had to calm down a bit.
The entire league schedule was always going to be a gauntlet, but a win over Class 5A No. 2 Rampart could do wonders for confidence down the road. Cheyenne had already grabbed a win in the second set, so coach Ellen Senf knew her girls were capable of gettin it done. They battled and they rallied and eventually walked away with a 19-25, 25-22, 15-25 25-19, 15-13 win over the Rams.
"Just seeing the rankings and knowing they were No. 2, I think we came out fearful tonight," Senf said. "But we showed that we can battle no matter what. In a month when we get to the state tournament we'll look back at this game and know we can battle."
For both teams, the match is a testament of just how tough the newly constructed Pikes Peak Athletic Conference is in certain sports, volleyball among them. From the 4A side, the last time neither Cheyenne Mountain or Lewis-Palmer claimed the state title was when Mountain View won it in 2007.
Air Academy and Palmer Ridge, also PPAC teams, have also made their way to the state finals, both losing to Lewis-Palmer.
When factoring in 5A schools such as Rampart and Pine Creek, not a night will go by in league competition where teams won't be tested.
"It's great in the fact that we have that competition," Rampart coach Nikki Bloemen said. "And our regular season being a shortened season, we really only have our league matches and our tournament at the end of the year so if we can see teams like this now, it's going to benefit us down the road."
Each team learned valuable lessons at the conclusion of the match. Cheyenne Mountain (4-0 overall, 4-0 5A/4A PPAC) learned that down 2-1 against a hard hitting team doesn't necessarily spell of the match.
"In that third set everyone got down on themselves," Cheyenne Mountain hitter Emma Delich said. "Nobody was playing together. They were playing for themselves and not for the team. After that third set, we came together and decided to play together and play for each other. We wanted to show that we care about each point and that we're in it to win it."
The Rams (1-1, 1-1) saw how limited they could be in certain spots. Even with a pair of Division I-bound standouts in Riley Simpson and Anjelina Starck, nothing will be given to them.
That was especially the case on Wednesday as Starck was somewhat limited in the match and saw no time in the front row, which is where she thrives for the Rams.
"We can't get comfortable," Bloemen said. "I think we were more than capable with the tools we had tonight, we just got comfortable there at the end and we let them back in it. We have to keep the pedal down and that's something that we're learning."
They'll have plenty of opportunities to learn it. The beauty of the league makeup for now is that four of the top five teams in the 4A CHSAANow.com rankings all reside in the PPAC. And Rampart will see them all, as will Cheyenne Mountain.
Thursday was a great match between two talented squads, but it's just the tip of the iceberg for the display of volleyball talent the league will showcase this year.