3A girls volleyball: Eaton claims seventh title in the past decade

(Brad Cochi)

COLORADO SPRINGS – It has been a couple of years since Eaton’s reign atop Class 3A girls volleyball ended, but the Reds are officially back on top.

The Reds had to knock off the champs to get back there too.

From 2011-17, the Reds won six state titles and did not lose a single championship match during that span. On Thursday night at The Broadmoor World Arena, the Reds won 25-14, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22 over defending champion Sterling in the Class 3A title match to reclaim the thrown and wear it home from the state tournament for the seventh time in a decade.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling because my team deserves it more than anyone,” Reds senior Sydney Leffler said. “We’ve rallied behind each other since Day 1. Even when people doubted us and thought that we couldn’t do it, we always believed in the person next to us. I’ve never been on a team where I’ve loved the people next to me more and they’ve loved me back.

“We’ve just had such a love for each other and that’s what’s allowed this season to end up the way that it did.”

In what was a rematch of an early-season meeting between the two teams that tipped in Eaton’s favor after five games, the unbeaten top-seeded Reds (18-0) were dominant in the first set on Thursday. After being pushed to the brink of elimination, however, No. 3 Sterling (16-3) responded to force a fourth set. The Tigers nearly forced a fifth, but Eaton held off a late charge to finish the match.

“We knew that was going to be a battle for us,” Eaton head coach Gwen Forster said. “Sterling is a phenomenal program with a great coach. We met them earlier in the season and we continued to get better since then. Our girls definitely deserve everything because they worked hard this season.”

Despite being a program that has been expected to contend for state titles now for a 10-year stretch, Eaton had to contend with the same set of unusual circumstances that all teams faced in Season C. Frustrating as it may have been at times, Forster said the additional challenges made this latest championship a special one.

“This group of kids is so unique that I had complete faith that we would come in holding our chest high and that’s what we did,” Forster said. “We trained early in the summer and into the fall only to get to where we don’t get to play. These girls were hungry and just wanted to get in the gym and we didn’t get the opportunity until just before the season started. Then we were actually in quarantine for a week, so we had to figure out how to get ready for our first match. But we figured out what we needed to do to win this.”

Eaton defeated No. 4 University in the semifinals to reach the title match. Sterling beat No. 2 Montezuma-Cortez in the Final Four.