MONUMENT - An uncontained 6-foot-1 Alexa Smith, just a junior, had her second consecutive dominating performance as last year's 4A runner-up Lewis-Palmer has begun its season with back-to-back sweeps.
Tuesday, Smith had 15 kills, eight digs and three aces on a night where the host Rangers rallied from eight- and five-point deficits to beat 5A Rampart 25-20, 25-21, 25-16.
Junior Nicole Montgomery and freshman Lydia Bartalo added seven kills apiece for Lewis-Palmer (2-0), while Amanda Cushen had six kills and Janice Jin had four aces for Rampart (0-1).
Throughout the match, an emotionally driven one where the Rampart and Lewis-Palmer student sections went back-and-forth at each other all night long, the Rangers who on the court were the ones who looked the most calm and collected - even when they trailed 13-5 in the second set and 8-3 in the third set.
"I think the way we practice definitely helps in these kinds of games. We don't have a practice where it's not competitive and we're not pushing each other the whole time," said Smith, who led 4A with 489 kills last season and earned a spot on the USA youth national team over the offseason. "We know what it is going to take to get us going this season."
And against Rampart, they knew what it took to finish too. Lewis-Palmer went on a 9-1 run in the second game to tie it at 14-14, before eventually pulling away. And in the third set, Rampart watched a 8-3 lead disappear into a 9-8 deficit due to two unforced errors and a lot of trouble shutting down Smith in front of the net.
"We just weren't consistent enough," said Cushen, a junior, who led the Rams with 236 kills last season. "I don't think it was just Alexa. She is a great, great player, but we were blocking her at the net tonight too. I mean you always look out for great players, but we know how to shut them down too. We'll be fine going forward after we just focus on consistency."
Baralo finished off the first and second game with a kill, and Montgomery let a Rampart serve go long to end the match.
Afterward, a very talented Lewis-Palmer had no interest in talking about title-or-bust expectations a season past losing to league rival Cheyenne Mountain in the finals last season.
"I'm hoping we do," smiled Montgomery, who won two state titles in track a couple of months ago. "I mean that's every team's dream. But if we work hard enough I hope we can get there."
Either way, Tuesday was a good start for the Rangers.
They face Legend on Thursday and the Rams travel to Smoky Hill on Saturday.