DENVER — By the time Lewis-Palmer had whopped its final opponent into submission, just like it whopped the others, there was only one question worth considering.

Be honest, Gianna Bartalo. How many high-5s, low-5s and secret handshakes did you hand out?

“Shoot, you’d have to count,” the junior libero said, finally relenting. “I’d get lost halfway through.”

OK, that wasn’t the one question. (But Gianna indeed set the unofficial state record for dap). This one is: After Lewis-Palmer wrapped a 27-1 season by virtue of a 25-11, 25-15, 25-10 triumph over Niwot in the Class 4A title match, was this the best team in the state, regardless of classification?

“That’s up to you to decide,” Bartalo said.

“That’s for everyone else, I think,” coach Wade Baxter said. “(We were) 12-1 against the teams here at state. I think that says something.”

“If you’re going to say that, sure,” senior McKenna Sciacca said.

I am going to say that, yes, and feel really confident about it.

But what do I know? Now that L-P made it five state titles in six years, with seven players going on to play college 'ball, let’s get the opinion of the Class 5A state champs — Valor Christian.

“Of course, Lewis-Palmer beat us,” Valor coach Kaitlyn Hastings said. “They’re always good.”

It will snow in Colorado. Interstate 25 will be a parking lot. Lewis-Palmer will whop everybody.

These are things you can count on, and this season arguably was their most dominant display of teamwork, talent and togetherness yet. They didn’t lose a set in 22 of their 27 victories. They dropped one set in six November matches, including the Saturday sweep against a capable Niwot squad. They beat the Class 5 finalists — Valor and Chaparral — in three of four head-to-head matches. The only team that got 'em was Chap, way back on Sept. 4, in a four-set outlier.

“I think we played the best volleyball I’ve ever seen this core group play today,” Baxter said.

That’s saying something, too, since Lewis-Palmer already was the back-to-back state champs. "Three-peat! Three-peat!" led them off the court.

“What a day to do it,” Baxter said.

Polite as they come across, the Rangers are competitive cutthroats at heart. Shoot, they put me right to work on Saturday, handing me the camera for a group shot with the trophy. Just this trophy, not the other four they won over the previous five years, because they wouldn’t fit.

"That’s three for me,” Bartalo said.

What’s the secret?

“How close we are,” she said.

OK, so that sounds like it’s true. Their overwhelming talent and athleticism plays another biggest role. Sciacca’s going to play her college volleyball up in Greeley at Northern Colorado and swears she’ll return to L-P to catch her teammates beat everybody again next season.

“We'll be FaceTiming a lot,” she said.

Niwot tried. Tried real hard. Same for the 27 other opponents that tried and went down. The best volleyball squad in Colorado, regardless of class, was too much for anyone and everyone.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

Sports columnist

Denver sports columnist for The Gazette

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