CENTENNIAL - When The Vanguard School coach Andrew Soeldner held the school’s first boys’ volleyball practice six years ago, he asked the team who had played organized volleyball before signing up.
“No one raised their hands,” Soeldner said.
But it took just a year for Vanguard to appear in the 3A state championship, which sparked a near-perfect run the next four years.
Saturday, Vanguard defeated Faith Christian for the championship 2-0 (25-15, 25-18) for the program’s fourth consecutive title, increasing its unbelievable 3A winning streak to 90 matches.
Soeldner said celebrating their fourth title felt just as good as the first, but he went through an emotional journey throughout the day.
“The first time was great because it was new, we were all working together, we were figuring it out, but this time they are my family,” Soeldner said. “I’ve known them all for five years now and then there’s this sadness throughout the whole day, knowing and counting down - 150 points left, 100 points left, 50… 0. And I’m not going to coach these seniors ever again.”
Soeldner has coached a large core of the seven-member senior class since they were in eighth grade - the first time Vanguard made it to the state championship.
The Coursers started the day with a 2-0 win over St. Mary’s in the first round, but according to Soeldner, fell off a bit in the second set of their second-round game against D-20 White. Vanguard ultimately defeated the other Pikes Peak region team 25-23 in the second set for a 2-0 sweep, setting up their third title match against Faith Christian in four years.
The Coursers set the tone early thanks in part to senior Hayden Frear smacking down four kills on the way to a 7-1 lead in the first set. Vanguard began the second set in similar fashion, earning a 5-0 lead. Faith Christian kept the set tight the whole way, tying it up early, before battling back from a four-point deficit to close within one.
But behind senior Carter Milroy at the service line, Vanguard used a 6-0 run to put it on ice.
Frear delivered a powerful jump serve that was too much for Faith Christian to handle, sending the ball into the stands for the win.
Frear told The Gazette last week that he hoped to meet Faith Christian in the final again after developing a rivalry with the Eagles over the years. He said the Coursers’ second state title win over Faith Christian in 2016-17 sparked the idea that they could potentially sweep the championships through his high school career.
“At that point we thought we could actually go for the full run. We thought no one was going to outwork us in the state,” Frear said last week.
Frear was named first-team all-state by Colorado coaches and earned the most first-team votes in the state. He has signed to play Division I volleyball at McKendree University.
“It was great to see them execute they way that I knew they could,” Soeldner said. “This is an amazing group of guys, they showed they are at the top of their game and proved it today.”
Class 3A tournament
D-20 White earned a first-round win in three sets over Thornton Gray 25-21, 20-25, 15-8 before running into Vanguard in the second round.
James Irwin defeated Cheyenne Mountain White 25-19, 25-12 in the first round, but fell to Faith Christian in a tight three-set match in the semifinals. The Jaguars won the first set 25-17 before falling in the remaining two 25-19, 15-12.
Class 5A tournament
The No. 2 seed Cheyenne Mountain was upset in the first round by No. 7 Castle View Black in three sets (25-15, 27-29, 15-10). D-20 Blue also fell in a three-set first-round clash, losing to Thornton Blue 12-25, 25-19, 15-9.