COLORADO SPRINGS — Sangre de Cristo made one thing clear in their first round match of the Class 1A girls volleyball state tournament. Any and all teams should be ready to play when the Thunderbirds are on the court.
It wasn't just that they beat No. 2 Wiley to advance to the 1A semifinals, but a 25-14, 25-23, 25-22 sweep of the Panthers was more a demonstration that the road to the state title is going to be a treacherous path.
"I think that Sangre is overlooked a lot in pretty much every sport that we play," senior Avery Palmgren said. "We always come to play and come to prove ourselves. We always come in focused and ready to accomplish our goals."
There's no mistaking that a goal was not heading to the Broadmoor World Arena just to play in one match. The Thunderbirds had the ambition to get into Saturday's semifinals, at the very least.
They showed a well-balanced offensive attack from Palmgren and Ashley Mortensen, the same offensive attack that got them a 13-3 record heading into the state tournament.
At times, they found themselves either tied with Wiley or trailing, but they never let panic set in and always trusted their ability remain in the set until the final point was scored.
"I think people doubt us, but they should be ready to play," Palmgren said. "We definitely are."
(1) Fleming 3, (8) Otis 0
The winners of 10 of the last 13 1A titles met in the first round with Fleming looking every bit the defending champion.
The Wildcats held off the Bulldogs 25-19 and 25-23 in the first two sets before jumping out to a fast lead and dominating the third set 25-9. Fleming has advanced to the 1A semifinals every year dating back to at least 2008.
The Wildcats will meet Simla on Thursday at 8 a.m.
(4) Simla 3, (5) Stratton/Liberty 1
The Cubs made it to the 2A semifinals in 2019 and have now reached the same round in their first year at the 1A level.
They held off Stratton/Liberty in the first two sets 27-25, 25-13 before the Knighted Eagles got their lone win of the matching the third, beating the Cubs 25-18. Simla quickly rebounded and won the fourth set 25-12 to remain alive for Thursday's matches.
(3) Merino 3, (6) Briggsdale 0
Merino looked dominant in the first set and establish a tone for the rest of the match. The Rams came eventually came away with a 25-12, 25-18, 25-19 win to get back into the 1A semis. They actually trailed 14-8 at one point in the third set, but a 17-5 rally sealed their bid to Thursday's semifinal round.
The Rams last advanced to the 1A semis last season where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Fleming.
Merino is one of the most accomplished volleyball programs in the state having won 10 state championships, third most among all teams regardless of classification. The Rams haven't won a title since 2001 and are looking to end that drought this week.