November 9, 2013 Updated: November 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm
DENVER - Before 2012, a team could recover from a loss in one of three pool-play matches at the state volleyball tournament and find a way to move on.
But when the Colorado High School Activities Association increased qualifiers from eight to 12 - therefore going from two, four-team pools to four, three-team pools - it gave teams no margin for error with only two games.
Doherty and Cheyenne Mountain found that out the hard way Saturday in their second pool-play contest and fell short of defending their 5A and 4A state titles, respectively.
One day after Doherty erased a two-set deficit in a win over Cherokee Trail, the Spartans couldn't replicate the feat against Arapahoe on Saturday, falling in straight sets to finish the season 21-5.
"Winning a state championship is hard," Spartans coach Tara Hittle said. "I'm extremely proud of these girls. They played with tons of heart and tons of fight.
"They were stepping into big roles and taking on challenges that maybe they weren't ready for."
Cheyenne Mountain, which had claimed the past five 4A state titles, saw its season end at the hands of league rival Air Academy, which beat the Indians for the first time in recent memory in a back-and-forth, five-set classic.
Trailing 14-13 in the fifth set, the game ended on a disputed call in which it appeared an Air Academy player made the last touch on a ball that went wide.
“I don’t want to put the game on that; it clearly was what it was,” Indians coach David Barkley said. “But we shouldn’t put ourselves in a position where that’s the match point. It hurts for the kids because they worked so hard, but I give credit to Air Academy; it was a great match.”
The Indians, who opened pool play Friday with a four-set win over Valor Christian, finished 23-4.
"It hurts, but it was well-fought and both teams played their hardest," Indians junior Courtney Domme said. "To lose the streak is tough, but we're going to come back next year and play hard again."