November 10, 2012
DENVER • The large Doherty contingent that made the trip to Denver on Saturday night said it all with a one-word chant: undefeated.
The Spartans and their fans celebrated the school’s first volleyball state title in nine years with a 25-17, 25-14, 25-15 win over Grandview in the 5A championship match.
Doherty finished its storybook season 29-0 behind what was probably its most dominant performance of the year.
“The Spartans are scary good; I’ve said that before but it’s very true,” said Doherty junior Haleigh Washington, who led the way with 15 kills. “We knew this title was ours from the beginning of the year.”
There was little doubt the title was Doherty’s in the final match. After shaking off two close five-game wins earlier in the day to advance to the finals, the Spartans were all business on Court 5.
Doherty won nine of the last 13 points to win game one, scored 10 of 12 during a scoring run in game two and finished the match with a 9-3 run.
For Doherty coach Tara Hittle, it was déjà vu. The last time the Spartans won the state title Hittle was the main weapon on the court in 2003. Now nine years later she faced Grandview — the same school she defeated as a player for the trophy — as a coach.
“Both of the championships are special; as a player I obviously had more control because I was out there, but I didn’t ever think about how it would feel to win it as a coach until now,” Hittle said. “These girls worked so hard and are so beautiful inside and out, and they deserve it.”
A seasoned roster made up of seven seniors and six juniors led the way for Doherty all season, and senior co-captains Cierra Simpson and Kiara McKibben shined Saturday.
The duo gave their thoughts while keeping a death clutch on the 5A trophy.
“I think the best part about this is the fact that we had to get through some adverse situations in our previous matches today, and then come out and dominate this match like we did,” said Simpson, who had 10 digs, five kills and three aces.
Cierra’s younger sister Gabby also played a big role, leading the Spartans with 14 assists. With big sister Taylor in the crowd watching, Cierra dedicated the win to her.
“I told Taylor that since we couldn’t help her get it done when she was here that I wanted to win this for her tonight,” said Simpson, whose older sister guided the Spartans to the semifinals in 2010.
McKibben, who had 13 assists and made several diving plays, said the trophy wasn’t heavy in her arms and that the mission all along was to put a 5A prize in the trophy case to restore Doherty volleyball tradition.
“It was a job that required each and every one of us,” McKibben said. “We all pulled our weight, even the girls on the bench, and this was truly a team effort to do this.”