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Here's what Fort Collins-area's high school volleyball field looks like going into postseason

Fort Collins Coloradoan logo Fort Collins Coloradoan 10/27/2021 Kelly Lyell, Fort Collins Coloradoan

Fossil Ridge High School’s volleyball team won the Class 5A state title in 2016, Fort Collins was in the semifinals in 2019, and three of the city’s four main high schools all made the 12-team state tournament just four years ago.

In comparison, this is somewhat of a down year for high school volleyball programs in and around Fort Collins. None of the four 5A schools — Fort Collins, Fossil Ridge, Poudre and Rocky Mountain — are expected to host regional tournaments next week, and Poudre won’t even make it to regionals after finishing its season with a three-set loss at home Tuesday to Fossil Ridge to finish 6-16.

Fort Collins' Emily Johnson tosses the ball over the net during her team's home game against Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. © Jon Austria/The Coloradoan Fort Collins' Emily Johnson tosses the ball over the net during her team's home game against Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021.

Where local teams are making a lot of noise, though, is in the lower classifications.

Champions: Rocky Mountain boys, Fossil Ridge girls win 5A regional cross country titles

Windsor is No. 6 among Class 4A teams in the RPI, while Resurrection Christian and Liberty Common are Nos. 1 and 4, respectively, at the 3A level. All three schools are likely to be selected as hosts of regional tournaments next week.

Only the champions from the 12 regionals in each classification will advance to the state tournament Nov. 11-13 at Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.

With the regular season ending this weekend and regional brackets coming out Monday afternoon, here’s a look at where local volleyball teams stand:

Fossil Ridge volleyball player Emma Converse hits during a match against Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Fossil Ridge won 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-20) against a short-handed Lobos squad. © Kevin Lytle/The Coloradoan Fossil Ridge volleyball player Emma Converse hits during a match against Rocky Mountain on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. Fossil Ridge won 3-0 (25-15, 25-22, 25-20) against a short-handed Lobos squad.

Fossil Ridge coming on strong as postseason approaches

Some early losses in nonconference play to teams in lower classifications — Class 3A’s University and Class 4A’s Holy Family, Thompson Valley and Erie — were extremely damaging to Fossil Ridge’s RPI.

The SaberCats (14-5, 10-1 Front Range League) were getting used to a new coach, Natalie Burton, who was hired just a week before tryouts. And they had a lot of young players stepping into key roles to replace seniors who had graduated from a team that won the Front Range League title in the delayed 2020 season played last spring.

Burton said players struggled to get used to one another and clearly felt the pressure of trying to live up to the program’s recent success.

“There was a lot of playing not to lose instead of playing to win,” she said Wednesday. “Now that we’ve taken that weight off and we know who we are and what we’re about, we’re playing more relaxed, competing better and having fun on the court. … It just all clicked one day.”

Fossil Ridge has won 10 of 11 matches in league play, losing just two sets in those 10 wins. The lone loss in league play was to league champion Broomfield (21-2, 11-0 FRL), currently No. 4 in the RPI.

Sophomore Emma Moddelmog is one of the top Class 5A setters in the state, averaging 8.9 assists per match, and sophomore Emma Converse is one of the leading hitters at 2.6 kills per set. Freshman Erin Hermann and Kenzie Hicks, one of just three seniors on the roster, each rank among the top 30 blockers in the state at 0.9 and 0.8 per match, respectively.

The SaberCats, No. 19 in the RPI Wednesday, are scheduled to play in a tournament Friday and Saturday at Cheyenne Mountain to wrap up the regular season. They open Friday against crosstown rival Fort Collins, a team they beat 3-1 earlier this season.

Rocky Mountain High School volleyball players Maddison Santini (4) and Ryan Woodall (10) block a shot by Fort Collins' Emily Johnson during a match Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Fort Collins High in Fort Collins, Colo. Rocky Mountain won 25-19, 25-22, 25-23. © Kelly Lyell/The Coloradoan Rocky Mountain High School volleyball players Maddison Santini (4) and Ryan Woodall (10) block a shot by Fort Collins' Emily Johnson during a match Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021, at Fort Collins High in Fort Collins, Colo. Rocky Mountain won 25-19, 25-22, 25-23.

Rocky Mountain, Fort Collins struggling for consistency

Rocky Mountain and Fort Collins have both been up and down throughout the season, showing the potential, at times, to battle for spots in the 12-team state tournament.

Rocky Mountain (12-10, 6-3 FRL) had the upper hand when they met Tuesday night in Fort Collins’ gym, handing the Lambkins a three-set loss (25-19, 25-22, 25-23). But early season losses to Class 4A programs Windsor, Frederick and Palisade and three more losses at a tournament last weekend at Dakota Ridge have dropped the Lobos to No. 30 in the RPI through Wednesday. Rocky Mountain closes out its regular season Thursday night at Loveland.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit in the beginning, but we’ve found our groove and now we’re ready to go,” senior setter Maddison Santini said.

Santini is one of the best in the state, averaging 9.0 assists per set, and senior Ashley Morris ranks among the state’s top 50 in service aces with 35. The Lobos have played their past few matches without injured libero Phoebe Sebby but hope to get her back in time for regionals, coach Nicole Jones said.

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Despite the loss to Rocky Mountain, Fort Collins (11-8, 7-4) is still ahead of the Lobos in the RPI at No. 25 and has a chance to move up several spots with some wins at a tournament Friday and Saturday at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs. The Lambkins’ first match there is against Fossil Ridge, a team that beat them 3-1 earlier this season.

Senior Emily Johnson ranks among the state’s top 20 Class 5A players in blocks with 0.9 per set and among the top 50 in kills (2.7 per set), hitting percentage (.265) and service aces (35). Junior Jordan Romano also averages 0.9 blocks per set, and senior Sidney Kettlekamp is among the state’s leaders in kills with 3.0 per set. Setter Sidney Stokes, a junior, is in the top 25 in assists with 7.1 per set.

Like the Lobos, the Lambkins have the talent to pull off an upset or two at regionals and maybe even win to qualify for the state tournament.

“We’re still waiting for that moment of everything kind of clicking together,” coach Alejandra McGee said. “We have the talent, we’ve got the work ethic, we’ve got the attitude. Now it’s just waiting for the pieces to come together.”

Windsor High School volleyball player Julia Bohlinger spikes the ball during a match at Rocky Mountain on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Fort Collins, Colo. Windsor won the match 25-21, 21-25, 25-13, 25-23. © Kelly Lyell/The Coloradoan Windsor High School volleyball player Julia Bohlinger spikes the ball during a match at Rocky Mountain on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021, in Fort Collins, Colo. Windsor won the match 25-21, 21-25, 25-13, 25-23.

Windsor wins league title with 11th straight victory

Windsor clinched the Northern Colorado Athletic Association title Tuesday night by beating Erie in three sets to finish 9-0 in league play. The Wizards have won 11 straight matches since suffering a five-set loss Sept. 14 at Erie and were ranked No. 4 in the Class 4A RPI on Wednesday.

The Wizards reached the semifinals of the delayed 2020 Class 4A state tournament, played last spring.

Senior setter Shae Hardy directs an offense that ranks No. 6 in the state in kills at 11.0 per set and No. 7 in assists at 9.9 per set. Sophomore Julia Bohlinger is the Wizards' leading hitter at 2.6 kills per set. Senior Annika Jones is the leading blocker, with 8.0 per set, for a Windsor team that averages 2.1 a set.

Windsor plays solid defense behind its block, too, averaging 17.4 digs a game — the 12th best average in the state.

Resurrection Christian School celebrates after scoring a point during their home game against Liberty Common on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. © Jon Austria/The Coloradoan Resurrection Christian School celebrates after scoring a point during their home game against Liberty Common on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

Unbeaten Resurrection Christian leads the way in Class 3A

Resurrection Christian, still dealing with the absence of senior Hana Friedrich, who suffered critical injuries in a car crash last month, continues to take care of its business on the court. The Cougars (18-0, 10-0 Patriot League) have lost just four of the 54 sets they’ve played this season while dominating opponents.

On Tuesday night, they beat defending state champion Eaton in four sets to complete league play with a perfect record and solidify their spot at the top of the Class 3A RPI. Eaton knocked Resurrection Christian out of the delayed 2020 state tournament, played last spring, in the opening round.

The Cougars lead the state’s 3A teams in assists (10.9 per set) and are No. 2 in kills (12.1 per set), No. 4 in hitting percentage (.238) and No. 10 in blocks (1.8 per set). Senior Jeorgia Jones and junior Reagan McWhinney both rank among the top 25 players in the state in kills with 3.0 and 2.9 per set, respectively, while Jones (0.8 per set), sophomore Mackenzie Flikkema (0.8) and junior Alyssa Grosball (0.7) all rank among the top 30 in blocks. Senior setter Kylee Nordhagen is No. 6 in the state in assists with 6.4 per set.

Liberty Common's Sarah Bartels tips the ball over the net, defended by RCS Mackenzie Flikkema, left, and Bryleigh Schweer, right, during their game at Resurrection Christian School on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. © Jon Austria/The Coloradoan Liberty Common's Sarah Bartels tips the ball over the net, defended by RCS Mackenzie Flikkema, left, and Bryleigh Schweer, right, during their game at Resurrection Christian School on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021.

Liberty Common bounces back as postseason nears

Liberty Common put itself near the top of the state’s Class 3A programs right away this fall by winning its first 12 matches of the season. Losses at Resurrection Christian, Eaton and at home to Platte Valley over the next three weeks knocked them down in both the state’s RPI and the Patriot League standings.

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But five straight wins since then heading into a match Wednesday night at Sterling have the Eagles (18-3, 6-3 Patriot League) flying high again. They’re No. 4 in the latest RPI while sitting at No. 5 ranking in the powerful Patriot League standings behind Resurrection Christian (No. 1 in RPI), Sterling (No. 10), University (No. 7) and Platte Valley (No. 17).

Junior Reina Krueger is the state’s leading blocker at the 3A level, averaging 1.9 per set, for a team that averages a state-best 3.6 per set. Sophomore Lilly Tullius is the state’s fifth-leading blocker at 1.0 per set. Senior setter Ashley Sanchez is fifth in the state in assists at 8.1 per set, and the Eagles as a team are No. 6 at 9.9 per set.

Heritage Christian battles for spot in Class 2A regionals

Heritage Christian closed out its regular season with a four-set loss Tuesday against Denver Christian and might need some help from teams still playing later this week and into the weekend to make the 36-team field for the Class 2A regionals.

The Eagles (14-9, 8-5 Mile High League) were No. 33 in the Class 2A RPI on Wednesday, and with league champions guaranteed spots in one of the 12 regionals, could get bounced from postseason play when brackets are announced.

Heritage Christian rebounded nicely from a string of three straight losses in mid-September, winning 10 of its next 12 before Tuesday’s loss to Denver Christian (16-6, 11-0 MHL), the Mile High League’s top team and No. 10 in the RPI entering its season finale Friday at Lyons.

Kelly Lyell reports on CSU, high school and other local sports and topics of interest for the Coloradoan. Contact him at kellylyell@coloradoan.com, follow him on Twitter @KellyLyell and find him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KellyLyell.news. If you 're a subscriber, thank you for your support. If not, please consider purchasing a digital subscription today.

This article originally appeared on Fort Collins Coloradoan: Here's what Fort Collins-area's high school volleyball field looks like going into postseason

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