By Taylor Lee and Michael Hicks
DENVER –– As the Berthoud volleyball team headed to the 4A state tournament last weekend at the Denver Coliseum, many wondered if the same result that befell the Spartans last year would happen again.
Last year, the team went 0-3 in pool play, putting a damper on a highly successful season. But Berthoud wasn’t about to let that happen a second year in a row.
The Spartans went 2-1 during pool play this go-around, winning their first two games. But a loss to Lewis-Palmer in a pool-play tiebreaker ended the Spartans’ season one game away from reaching the semifinals.
While the Spartans (26-3) didn’t achieve their ultimate goal — winning a state title –– the fact that they improved on last year’s winless performance showed their improvement over the course of one year.
“Last year, it was our first time. We didn’t really know the environment and the atmosphere,” said senior outside left-handed hitter Kelley Arnold. “This year, I think coming back, we knew what we were coming into. We performed better. I think just a collection of things that helped us perform and work our hardest.”
In the tiebreaker, Berthoud started off strongly, scoring six of the game’s first nine points. But Lewis-Palmer, which had just played a five-game pool-play match with Sterling, countered with a 14-1 run – nine of those points coming consecutively, to take a 17-7 lead.
The Rangers, led by junior Kristen Sciacca and senior Brittany Walker, kept a steady lead until the Spartans ran off a 7-2 run of their own to rally to within 21-19. But Lewis-Palmer scored four of the next five points to win the tiebreaker and advance to the state semifinals to face eventual state champion Cheyenne Mountain.
“I think today we stared off a little rocky. Things just weren’t clicking,” Arnold said. “We were playing hard and really giving the effort, but I don’t think the ball was coming in our favor.”
Lewis-Palmer’s win, in some ways, avenged a loss to Berthoud in the 2000 state finals. The Spartans and Rangers had split the first two games in that match-up before BHS scored 15 of 16 points in the final game for their only state title.
But this time, it would be a different story. “You’ve got to give credit to Lewis-Palmer. That’s their sixth game in a row.
They maybe we’re a little more warmed up than we were. I don’t know,” said Berthoud head coach Mil Santos. “The fact was they wanted it more than we did ourselves. They made a huge run and we couldn’t recover.”
Roosevelt beat the Spartans, as well, on Saturday morning. Berthoud won the first game, 25-19, but lost the last three — 25-22, 25-22, 25-14.
Berthoud had better luck Friday, winning 3 TO1) against Skyline — 27-25, 14-25, 25-19, 25-20 — and also beating Lewis-Palmer (3-1) — 25-23, 12-25, 25-16, 25-21.
The loss to Lewis-Palmer was a tough pill to swallow, but, if anything, the Spartans showed their fighting spirit when they could’ve easily went out without giving much effort at all.
“Well, it’s certainly bitter (the loss to Lewis-Palmer). Our main goal was to play as a team. We came back and we fought. We were down 10 at one time,” said senior setter Sarah Fietchner. “We came back and fought to the end. We were undefeated the first day, which was amazing. We wanted that. We certainly wanted to win a state championship, but we had so many more goals that we wanted to reach.”
If winning 26 matches and winning a Northern Conference, district and regional championship were those goals, then the Spartans’ season can certainly be considered a success.
Not bad for a team that lost seven seniors from a year ago.
“We exceeded all expectations after losing seven seniors last year,” Santos said. “We had a very good season. We just came up short. We were short last year, but we weren’t even close. This year, we were one game from making the semifinals.”