Teams just don't shuffle onto Cheyenne Mountain's home court and celebrate. In 10 years as Indians coach, David Barkley hadn't seen any of his teams drop a home match to a league opponent.
That changed Tuesday.
Junior Alexa Smith ended the night with her 27th kill as the Rangers staved off two match points and rallied past Cheyenne Mountain, 25-15, 22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 16-14 to defend their Pikes Peak Athletic Conference crown.
"If we played each other 10 times, we'd probably go 5-5," Barkley said. "These are two good teams who work hard. I feel good about our team. We're OK. They have the best all-around player in the state in Alexa. If we're fortunate to get to play them again at state, you'll see a match like this."
Last year, the Rangers (15-1, 6-0) notched a home win over the Indians (14-2, 5-1), only later to be topped in the 4A state championship match.
On Tuesday, Lewis-Palmer and Cheyenne Mountain alternated victories in the first four games, then went back and forth in the winner-take-all fifth set. When Maddie Beal sent her team-best 16th kill to the floor, it put Cheyenne Mountain ahead 14-12 for two shots at getting back the league trophy.
But senior Haley McCurley recorded a kill, then served an ace that tied the score at 14. On the next rally, Beal sent an attempt into the net to give Lewis-Palmer its first match point, which it put to good use.
"I hoped to get the chance to win on their court, especially with their crowd," senior Abi Bartalo said. "When I was a freshman, they destroyed us here. As soon as that ball hit the ground, it was so exciting. It's definitely worth all the work we put into it."
The Indians entered the game on a 13-game winning streak, dropping just five sets after a 3-0 loss at 5A power Grandview on Sept.?4.
Lewis-Palmer played a near-perfect first set, committing no errors in a 10-point victory.
"When we get down, we have to pick everyone back up," Beal said. "We talk about coming together as a team and not giving in."
The Indians started to pull away late in the second set, surging to a 23-18 edge before the Rangers reeled off four straight points. After a Mara Barkley kill, Beal tied the match with a set-ending stuff over the net.
The Rangers again went ahead with a tightly fought third set, winning five consecutive points late to take charge.
In the fourth, Cheyenne Mountain opened up a 24-20 lead, thanks to a Beal kill and two Rangers hitting errors, to help the Indians square the match and send to a fifth set.
"Lewis-Palmer is a really good team," Beal said. "We have such a good rivalry going. It went their way tonight, and we're going to keep pushing forward. Hopefully, we can get another match with them."