Gianna Bartalo knows a thing or two about winning high school state volleyball championships. In her first three seasons as a libero for Lewis-Palmer — all as a starter — she helped power the Rangers to three Class 4A titles.
That was then.
“We’re putting our minds to working hard every single day and then we’ll see what happens. Stay tuned!” Bartalo said after her Rangers swept host Coronado (29-27, 25-12, 26-24) during their season opener on Sept. 3.
Bartalo, who will play for the University of Denver next year, has been a member of some great Lewis-Palmer teams. In her first three seasons with the program, Rangers squads compiled an incredible 86-1 record. Losing a set was a rarity, as Bartalo’s crews went 247-14 from 2016-18.
Bartalo is the only starter back from last year’s team that featured seven players who are currently playing in college. There are just four returning letter winners on this year’s team.
“The girls are putting their minds to working hard. It’s something that we’ve done over the years in this program,” Bartalo said.
The Rangers showed grit against Coronado. They were down 15-11 in the first set, leading to Lewis-Palmer coach Wade Baxter calling a timeout. His team responded by going on a 7-0 run. The Rangers trailed just once the rest of the night in all sets.
“It showed their maturity already coming in the first set of the year, and a lot of them playing their first varsity game,” Bartalo said. “It shows that a lot of them are composed and can handle adversity.”
Rangers’ senior middle blocker Peyton Burnett is a starter this season after getting into just 11 sets last fall.
“This is going to be a little more of a challenge for us this year because we did lose eight seniors and we have a bunch of new girls this year,” said Burnett, who had five kills against Coronado. “We feel that we have to keep the legacy going. We can’t lose. Our goal this year is to go back to state and hopefully win again. It’s going to be harder for us, but we’re working hard.”
Senior outside hitter Danni Norman is a three-year letter winner and, in addition to Bartalo, is the only other player on this year’s team with any significant varsity playing time. Last season, she got into 44 sets and had 55 kills.
She led all Rangers in kills against Coronado with 17.
“To be a part of this program has been really inspiring,” Norman said. “Even though I was kind on the sidelines the last few years, I loved it. We don’t really know how we’re going to do this year, but we’re all working hard.”
Baxter said he will continue to tinker with his team for a while.
“It’s tweaking the lineup here and there. It’s sometimes subbing on the fly if I’m not getting what I want out of somebody,” he said. “They have to be a little more in tune that anything can happen.”
The Rangers play at home for the first time on Saturday when they host a tournament that includes Windsor, Ralston Valley, Niwot, Pueblo West, Platte Valley and Montrose.