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Palmer Ridge’s Ciara Conners returns a serve against Discovery Canyon during the Class 4A Colorado State Volleyball Championships Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021, at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs. Palmer Ridge won 3-1 to advance. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

4A No. 1 Palmer Ridge

Palmer Ridge sophomore Eva Larochelle has enough energy to spare.

The outside hitter, while not the leading offensive piece, was all over the court Friday, including with two feet far off it. She brought energy to a team that didn't get to play for 24 hours between matches — a catalyst to shaking off the rust in a 3-0 (25-22, 31-29, 29-27) win over No. 4 Thompson Valley. 

"It's what I do best," Larochelle said. "Volleyball is a team sport, and sometimes one person needs to change the game energy-wise. It brings up everybody. In practice, coach says, 'When you refresh others, you refresh yourself,' and I felt like we did that well today." 

Larochelle's enthusiasm, mixed with senior Madison Wilson's ability to pinpoint a slide hit, led to the Bears' win. When the Eagles began to adjust to the Idaho commit's hits, she began to tap and find space on the floor. 

Palmer Ridge's constant adjustments kept them from making a long run, but also played a key role in coming through in the closing moments. 

Only two wins separate Palmer Ridge from back-to-back titles, but the winner of Discovery Canyon against Cheyenne Mountain stands in the way for the first leg at 12 p.m. Saturday. 

4A No. 8 Discovery Canyon

Opposing coaches are even saying it.

Discovery Canyon, despite being a lower seeded team, has given every team its best shot. Erie got the first serving to the tune of a 3-2 win (25-16, 25-18, 25-17, 25-22, 15-13). Frederick got the second — this time a 3-0 win (25-21, 25-22, 25-14).

Other teams don't want to play Discovery Canyon. 

The Thunder won't boast the tallest player in a matchup. They don't have an All-American waiting to head off to college. What they do have is a solid understanding of how to play with one another and a drive to always compete, all throughout the roster. 

"We talk about it taking all 14 of us, and we believe that," coach Melissa Bravo said. "Whether you're on the court or bench, every single person has to show up to make us better. We always say, 'Let's all get this together. This is our point, together.'"

In each of the first two sets, the Thunder were met with a late Frederick push. Each time, Bravo called timeout, got the team reset and they went back out and clinched it. The third set, it wasn't needed. 

They'll play 8 a.m. Saturday against No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain. The two met once in the regular season — a 3-1 win by the latter. 

4A No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain 

Coach Ellen Senf was begged to take a timeout. 

With the second set dwindling, and frustrations mounting, the Red-Tailed Hawks needed a reset. The players, one-by-one seemingly, gave advice and implored one another to calm down and have fun in the huddles. 

The jitters shook off quick in Thursday's win, but the same didn't hold true against No. 6 Niwot in Cheyenne Mountain's 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-21) loss. 

"It felt like our game against Valor," Senf said. "Niwot came out fast, and we didn't. The pressure was there the whole game. Today, there was no deep breaths, it was nonstop." 

Officiating was the target of some heat. Teammates got the remainder as balls began to fall between defenders and the block struggled to keep up with Niwot's outside hitters. 

Grandview, Valor Christian and Chapparal — all 5A state qualifiers — downed Cheyenne Mountain three consecutive games in a tournament. Outside of that, losing hasn't been something the Red-Tailed Hawks have dealt with much. 

"We're here to have fun," Senf said. "They feel the pressure of wanting to win state so bad, and with five seniors starting, we just need to go out there and have fun tomorrow." 

5A No. 6 Rampart

Sophomore Izzy Starck, much like her sister before her, Anjelina, is a leader for Rampart. 

When the Rams met Valor Christian in the regular season, they came away with a five-set win on the shoulders of Starck's seven kills in just the final frame. The Eagles' goal Friday was to win, but if they were going to lose, it wouldn't be because of the standout hitter. 

"We just wanted it not to be the same this time, we didn't want it to go five sets," Valor Christian coach Jayne McHugh said. "We wanted to get it done while we could." 

The offense for the Rams in their 3-1 (25-12, 28-26, 30-28, 27-25) loss to Valor Christian was hit-and-miss. At times, Starck and company would have the hitting in a flow, and the momentum came with. 

A couple of mishits, and suddenly they weren't quite the same team. 

This year, the Rams were no longer a good volleyball team with a good story, they were a defending champion. Both losses showed the power of motivation for other teams to unseat them.