For the first time in at least the last 15 years, the state volleyball tournament had no Aurora teams involved.
At least one or two city teams have appeared in the Class 5A state championship match 13 times in the past 15 years, yet not even a single team was able to make it to the Denver Coliseum this time around.
It was a “weird” year for Aurora squads, but it wasn’t for a lack of talent, as plenty appears on the 2016 Aurora Sentinel All-Aurora Volleyball Team, which is selected by the Sentinel in conjunction with balloting of city coaches.
Eaglecrest rebounded from down 2015 season with an Aurora-best 17 victories, but ran into a buzz saw Chaparral team in regionals that kept coach Tanya Bond’s team out of the state tournament.
The Raptors were outstanding in a lot of areas and had some outstanding talents leading the way in senior outside hitter Rachael Perrine, senior libero Makenzi Kissman and sophomore setter/hitter Lorrin Poulter. Perrine averaged 3.7 kills and 3.1 digs per set as an integral weapon for the Raptors, while her 42 service aces ranked seventh in the league.
Poulter’s ability to set and hit was huge for Eaglecrest and she did both with averages of 5.1 assists and 2.3 kills per set, while she was No. 1 in the Centennial League — and No. 5 in all of 5A — with 73 service aces.
Kissman played a steadying role as a captain in her fourth varsity season and was a key passer, which the Raptors had to do well to be successful this season. She averaged 3.3 digs per set (227 total) and was another strong element of the service game with 42, which tied with Perrine for second on the team.
Grandview underwent tremendous change as Rob Graham took over for original coach Patty Childress, who had set a tremendous bar for the program each season. The Wolves caught fire by winning six of their last seven Centennial League matches to claim the league title and were on the upswing until regionals, where they in a tough draw to Mountain Vista to miss the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
Grandview switched coaches to Rob Graham and fell short of state for the first time in more than a decade, but caught fire enough late to win the Centennial League title.
The Wolves had lots of senior talent and libero Raychel Reed and middle hitter Alexis Gregson had plenty of big moments when they were needed.
Reed led the Centennial League in digs as a junior and placed second in the big-hitting league this season with 3.7 per set, while she had a team-high serve percentage and handled the majority of the serve receive duties with just 29 errors on 515 chances. Gregson earned more and more playing time as the season progressed and had some dominating streaks at the net, as she finished third on the team with 2.0 kills per set and second in blocks (68).
Cherokee Trail had a number of familiar faces back from the 2015 5A state championship team, yet found the going much tougher minus a group of seniors that included Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year Shannon Webb.
The Cougars returned senior Kenzie Hendon, who took on the focal point of the offense and managed to produce 364 kills (3.9 per set), which ranked sixth in all of 5A. She also notched 54 aces to finish second in the league and ranked fourth in digs with 3.7 per set for good measure.
Rangeview went 10-0 to win the EMAC championship and make the regional field, with senior middle hitter Tyler Speller as a focal point. Speller, the de facto league MVP, led the EMAC in virtually every major statistical category. She averaged 4.2 kills per set on a .421 hitting percentage, while she racked up 71 blocks and 56 service aces for good measure.
Sophomore Lexi Hurtado gave coach Doug Walker another versatile weapon with her setting and hitting, which was crucial given the Raiders graduated Hurtado’s sister Kelsie and University of Wyoming recruit Jackie McBride from the previous season. Lexi Hurtado finished second in the EMAC in assists (7.4 per set), added 55 blocks and was an effective hitter.
With a loaded schedule in terms of competition, Regis Jesuit struggled to put up many wins in the early going under new head coach Ellen Miks, but gained momentum late thanks to the play of veterans such as senior outside hitter Alex Osredker.
Coming into the season knowing this would be her last year in competitive volleyball — due to a back injury that requires intensive maintenance — Osredker averaged 3.1 kills and 1.7 digs per set, while her ball control in the back row was important for the Raiders.
Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or email@example.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel
2016 AURORA SENTINEL ALL-AURORA VOLLEYBALL TEAM
Middle hitter: Alexis Gregson, Grandview, sr.; Tyler Speller, Rangeview, sr.; Outside hitter: Kenzie Hendon, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Alex Osredker, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Rachael Perrine, Eaglecrest, sr.; Setter: Lorrin Poulter, Eaglecrest, soph.; Lexi Hurtado, Rangeview, soph.; Libero/D.S.: Makenzi Kissman, Eaglecrest, sr.; Raychel Reed, Grandview, sr.
Middle hitter: Noelle Cahill, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Kylie Harr, Grandview, jr.; Outside hitter: Lindsay Fernandez, Vista PEAK, fr.; Jordin O’Brien, Smoky Hill, sr.; Marina Schlaepfer, Grandview, sr.; Setter: Angelica Juan, Grandview, sr.; Kasandra Sturges, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Libero/D.S.: Ana De La Santos, Aurora Central, soph.; Jenna Heinemeyer, Regis Jesuit, sr.
Amani Ali, Overland, sr.; Sami Campion, Cherokee Trail, fr.; Gloria Castruita, Hinkley, sr.; Ariana Cockrell, Smoky Hill, sr.; Sydney Cole, Cherokee Trail, fr.; Georgia Cousins, Overland, jr.; Holly Edwards, Vista PEAK, jr.; DJ Fishburn, Aurora Central, sr.; Brennah Gaston, Grandview, sr.; Alyssa George, Vista PEAK, fr.; Megan Gieseke, Gateway, sr.; Alondra Gonzalez, Hinkley, jr.; Mariah Greenwell, Hinkley, sr.; Nyilah Horton, Eaglecrest, sr.; Londyn Johnson, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Jaelin Jones, Rangeview, sr.; Robyn Krause, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Rachel Kusner, Gateway, sr.; Ronnie Lennert, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Nina Lewis-Langford, Aurora Central, jr.; Lauren Myli, Eaglecrest, jr.; Ryan Nelson, Rangeview, jr.; Mollee Picchione, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Kayla Readus, Hinkley, sr.; Akolda Redgebol, Aurora Central, jr.; Laurel Ristvey, Gateway, sr.; Angie Rivera, Vista PEAK, jr.; Carly Schwulst, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Hannah Todd, Smoky Hill, jr.; Jessica Torones, Aurora Central, sr.; Jadyn Wangaard, Vista PEAK, jr.