There’s a new 4A state volleyball champion in town. And its name isn’t Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain.
Palmer Ridge made program history Thursday with the school’s first volleyball championship, defeating Mead 3-1, marking the first team not named Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain to win the title since 2007.
In 2019, Palmer Ridge lost to rival Lewis-Palmer in an all-Monument 4A championship, taking the Rangers to five sets.
That loss was the catalyst for the four returning seniors as Palmer Ridge aimed to take over as the dominant volleyball program in Monument.
“I think getting the runner-up trophy from last year was really disappointing for all of us and we just wanted to show this year that we are state champions and that we can do this, and I think we proved that,” senior outside hitter Riley Anderson said. “I think Monument is definitely known as a smaller town, and not many people know Palmer Ridge. Now I think we finally have made our name known and I think we have really shown that.”
Although a bit of a different atmosphere than the Denver Coliseum, where the 2019 championship was held, the Bears walked into the Broadmoor World Arena with butterflies and a chip on their shoulders, ready to prove they were state champions.
“It was a little nerve wracking for everyone I think being back in the same position (as 2019), and not being super confident, but we stepped out really confident and had our highs and lows,” senior libero Elaina Della Rossa said. “But at the end of the day I think we just wanted it so much more and we wanted to finish what we started last year.”
The No. 6 Bears defeated No. 2 Cheyenne Mountain in the state semifinals in straight sets, redemption from a five-set loss earlier in the year.
“Cheyenne Mountain was a very good game for us today,” Palmer Ridge coach Erica Bradley said. “I kind of wish that was the championship game but it is nice to go up against an unfamiliar team and know that these girls can still put them away.”
Palmer Ridge’s regular season loss to Cheyenne Mountain proved to be another catalyst, as the Bears went on to lose three more close matches to close out the regular season.
“Playing Cheyenne Mountain (in the semifinals) and beating them 3-0 was such a huge confidence booster for us,” Della Rossa said. “We were a little nervous, but it didn’t seem as scary because we played them before, but I think just the drive to win and we just wanted it so much more.”
Bradley stepped in as a first-year coach with Palmer Ridge, and immediately knew she had a state contender.
And now, Bradley led her team to program history.
“Gosh, it’s a little overwhelming, and lot of pressure, but I don’t know if I can take a lot of credit,” Bradley said. “These girls were very talented when I met them. The girls had it, they had it in them before I ever stepped foot on the court.”