The volleyball clash between Doherty and Lewis-Palmer was expected to be a great one, and it lived up to the hype Thursday night.
The teams traded haymakers for five games, with the host 5A Spartans outlasting the 4A Rangers 25-22, 25-21, 11-25, 11-25, 15-9.
"The fifth game was when it was time to get serious and it was time to go," said Doherty senior Haleigh Washington, who had 28 kills and 12 digs. "My team has so much heart; it blows my mind how much heart we have and it inspires me to do better."
The Spartans (10-1) took the first two games of the match and looked to be cruising to a three-game victory. But Lewis-Palmer had other ideas. The Rangers got Doherty off balance in games three and four and took it to the Spartans.
Led by Alexa Smith, Lewis-Palmer (10-1) fought hard to preserve its perfect record, rolling in games three and four to a combined score of 50-22.
"We came together as a team after we got down 2-0 and figured out what we needed to do against them and it worked," said Smith, who had 20 kills and eight digs. "To play a team like Doherty is such a good experience and it shows us what we need to work on and what we're already good at."
Making the dramatic match even more interesting is the fact that Washington and fellow Spartan Gabby Simpson are teammates with Smith on their club team, the Colorado Juniors.
The familiarity between the three of them made for some great action, as both teams pounded huge kills and came up with key blocks at the net.
"We don't talk any trash to each other because during the match all of us are focused only on the game; plus the three of us aren't those kind of players anyway," said Simpson, who had 31 assists and 13 kills. "It's fun to play against Alexa because she's such a smart hitter and it makes me have to play better as a blocker."
While Washington and Simpson were able to land the final blow to hand Smith and her teammates their first loss of the season, Doherty coach Tara Hittle sees room for improvement in one area.
"We're able to run our offense when we pass well, which we did in games one and five tonight," Hittle said. "But even when we were behind (13-4) in game two we got back into it by serving well and passing well. But it flip-flopped all match where one team would pass well and one wouldn't. We scrambled a lot when we didn't pass well."
After dropping games three and four and losing all the momentum, Doherty stormed out to a 9-3 lead in the decisive fifth game. It was only fitting that Washington scored the final point to win the match.
"The funny thing about volleyball is everybody only sees the set and the kill and the crowd cheers, but you can't have a kill without a good pass and that's something we need to improve on," Washington said. "But we battled and I was proud of my team."
Kaylee Bussinger had eight aces and 10 digs for Doherty, while Lewis-Palmer got 37 assists from Abby Bartalo and nine kills from Nicole Montgomery.