The Lewis-Palmer volleyball team found a way to rebuild and reload this fall.
The Rangers proved both can be achieved on Oct. 22 when they defeated crosstown rival Palmer Ridge in four sets to remain perfect in the rivalry match and vault four spaces to the top of the Class 4A RPI standings.
Lewis-Palmer has won all eight games in the series dating back to 2012.
By gaining the No. 1 spot in the RPI, the Rangers made the case that they are the team to chase down this postseason. Again!
Lewis-Palmer’s stranglehold on the 4A state championship trophy dates to 2016 when it won the first of three consecutive crowns. Those 2016-18 Rangers teams were stacked with Division I talent like few programs have ever experienced. That includes those great Cheyenne Mountain teams that won five consecutive state championships from 2008-12.
Lewis-Palmer also won state championships in 2013 and 2014.
This year’s Rangers are gritty, tough and unrelenting. They refuse to let go of their claim as the top horse in the race. It is obvious that they will not relinquish their throne without having it torn from their hands or jammed down their throats like a Danielle Norman kill shot.
Norman, a senior and three-year Rangers letter winner, upped her season kills total to 215 after a 19-kill effort against Palmer Ridge.
This Lewis-Palmer volleyball team is the most unheralded of any I have covered going back to the 2011 season when Alexa Smith was a freshman outside hitter for the program. She is now playing professionally in France.
These Rangers were relatively inexperienced in big games coming into this season. The only returning starter from last year’s 28-1 team is senior libero Gianna Bartalo. On a side note, Bartalo’s uncle, Steve Bartalo, was recently inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame.
Gianna is a four-year starter who is expected to sign her national letter of intent with University of Denver on Nov. 13. She’s started since she was a freshman and has been a sparkplug and a leader on and off the court. She learned well from her three older sisters — Hannah, Abi and Lydia — who all played or are playing college volleyball.
Norman, Alexis Williams, Michaela Recker and Peyton Burnett are the only other returning letter winners from last year’s Rangers’ team.
There is still plenty of volleyball to be played this season. The Rangers finish their season this week with a non-league game against 5A power Valor Christian, and then four games this weekend in the Cheyenne Mountain Tournament against more high-level competition.
Lewis-Palmer will host a regional on Nov. 9, and if that goes well, they will head to the state tournament the following week.
If the Rangers hope to play a 29th game — that would be the state finals — they will have to beat some very good teams along the way. Perhaps even some PPAC foes? You can bet your bottom dollar that Palmer Ridge, Discovery Canyon and Cheyenne Mountain won’t go down easy if they get rematches.
Danny Summers has been covering sports at all levels in the Pikes Peak region since 2001. Send your story ideas and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.