DENVER - Playing time came early for Gianna Bartalo and later for Danielle Norman, but the Lewis-Palmer seniors ended their prep volleyball careers arm in arm after a perfect run at the Denver Coliseum.

After the Rangers knocked off crosstown rival Palmer Ridge in the fifth set for their fourth straight state title and the stands had all but emptied, Bartalo and Norman shared one last walk around the courts, taking in the spot where they’ve had so much success.

“I’m just overwhelmed right now,” Bartalo said minutes after a block from Peyton Burnett and Maggie Masters gave the Rangers a 15-9 win in the decisive set. “That was amazing.”

In the words of Wade Baxter, Bartalo has been the Rangers’ starting libero “from the day she walked in the door as a freshman.” She was a key player in four straight titles, none more difficult than Saturday’s win over the Bears after the Rangers graduated a handful of Division I volleyball athletes in the spring.

“Those girls worked their butts off the whole season whether it was practicing at the YMCA on a snow day to try and get in reps or just getting in reps on their own time,” Bartalo said.

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Norman had to wait a little longer, getting a taste of varsity action as a freshman, but spent most of her first couple of seasons buried behind Division I talent.

According to Baxter, Norman could’ve been a three- or four-year starter at a lot of schools in the area, not that she was interested.

“I love the atmosphere at Lewis-Palmer,” Norman said. “I would not want to go to any other school for any other reason. I don’t care if I could’ve started.”

Her patience paid off, eventually leading L-P in kills as a senior. She was sixth, behind five seniors, in kills as a junior.

“She bided her time and didn’t complain and did what was asked,” Baxter said. “I got her in when I could. Now to really have a chance to be the shining offensive leader that she’s been all year is awesome.”

She played a big role in helping the Rangers put the Bears away. After Palmer Ridge forced a fifth set with a 25-21 win in the fourth, Norman put down a couple of balls early, as the No. 3 Rangers broke open an 8-4 lead.

“I had a very rough fourth set, and I told myself I was going to come out swinging, and I did,” she said. “I just really think that I was calm because I knew I was mentally strong enough to turn it around, and my whole team is as well.”

After erasing a two-set hole to Coronado in the semifinals Saturday morning, the Rangers again found themselves in a hole after a lineup mistake got the defending champions out of sorts in the first set.

“I transposed two numbers out of the blue, and we got all out of rotation and we couldn’t seem to fix it. I really feel like I cost us the first set, and I was going to be kicking myself forever if we had lost it,” Baxter said. “I don’t want to take anything away from Palmer Ridge. They played great, and they may have won that first set anyways, but I gave us a little handicap. They just fought so hard.”

Lewis-Palmer won the second and third sets 25-21 and 25-18 before the Bears’ took the fourth 25-21.

“It was a battle every point,” Baxter said.

Lucky for the L-P coach, he had a couple of seniors who were pretty comfortable playing in state championships. Bartalo never had reason to look elsewhere, but Norman could’ve easily found more playing time at another school. Had she done so, however, she wouldn’t have shared one final walk with a close friend after four straight championship runs.

“I think waiting it out was worth it because of this moment right here,” Norman said. “Because I got to work hard. I got to prove myself.”