COLORADO SPRINGS — The Montezuma-Cortez girls volleyball team has waiting a long time to have another squad capable of competing for a state title and the Panthers showed their excitement in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Wednesday's state championships.
Still unbeaten in Season C, the Panthers (14-0) overcame and early scare to beat No. 7 Prospect Ridge, 14-25, 25-23, 25-26, 25-20 to reach the semifinals. They will play No. 3 Sterling at 2 p.m. on Thursday with a berth into the title match on the line.
"I think it's been 20 years and they took third in the state back then when we were in 4A at the time," Panthers head coach Joye McHenry said. "We haven't been since we've been 3A for the past six years, so it's exciting. This team has played together forever. We have a lot of seniors, so we have a lot of experience. A lot of them have played club and all of them have had some adversity and some struggles that they've had to kind of pull through, so they're just a really tight-knit group."
The first game against a Prospect Ridge team that made its state tournament debut in 2018 was just the ninth Montezuma-Cortez has dropped all season. But the Panthers rebounded from the shock of defeat amidst a slew of new experiences at The Broadmoor World Arena to win the final three games in a row.
"I was really nervous about the first game altogether because a lot of our small-town girls haven't seen a bigger venue," McHenry said. "But I knew that once we got the first one under our belts, we'd be fine. I'm feeling confident now."
The Prospect Ridge Miners, who have now reached the state tournament in two of their five varsity seasons, only lost two matches in Season C. Both were two state tournament teams in Montezuma-Cortez and No. 6-seeded Lutheran.
(1) Eaton 3, (8) Resurrection Christian 1
It's said to be harder to beat a team the second time around and that proved to true when No. 1 Eaton and No. 8 Resurrection Christian met for the second time in Season C, this time in the Class 3A quarterfinals. After the Eaton volleyball team swept Resurrection Christian during the regular season, the postseason rematch went four sets before the tournament favorites eventually won, 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 25-22.
Eaton will play No. 5 University at 8 a.m. in the semifinals on Thursday.
(5) University 3, (4) Lamar 1
The University volleyball team hasn't been in the state title game since it finished the 2010 season as runner-up to Valley, but the Bulldogs are still in the hunt after Day 1 of this week's state tournament. In the Class 3A quarterfinals on Wednesday, the No. 5 Bulldogs won 25-17, 25-15, 13-25, 25-22 over the No. 4 Lamar Savages, who were uncertain whether or not they would be able to play in the days leading up to the tournament.
University will face No. 1 Eaton at 8 a.m. in the semifinals on Thursday.
(3) Sterling 3, (6) Lutheran 1
In one of the longest and certainly the latest match of Wednesday's opening quarterfinals round, No. 3 Sterling and No. 6 Lutheran closed down The BroadMoor World Arena in exciting fashion. In a match that very nearly went to a fifth set, which would have been the only time that happened on Wednesday, Sterling edged Lutheran, 17-25, 25-20, 25-22, 25-23, to reach the semifinals.
On Thursday, Sterling will take on No. 2 Montezuma-Cortez at 2 p.m.