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Courtesy photo

The Palmer Ridge volleyball team celebrates a third-set win over Discovery Canyon on March 31 at Palmer Ridge High School.

MONUMENT • It’s been more than 500 days since Palmer Ridge’s loss to rival Lewis-Palmer in five sets for the Class 4A state championship.

The sting of defeat may not fade away with time, but this season Palmer Ridge wants to leave no doubt as the Bears aim for another shot at a state championship.

“They are hungry for that state title,” said first-year coach Erica Bradley. “I can’t imagine what it was like ending on a note like that, but I think we have all the pieces this season. I have no doubt that they are the team to go in and get it done this year.”

Palmer Ridge is well on its way following yet another straight-set victory Wednesday against Discovery Canyon, the Bears’ toughest opponent so far this season.

Discovery Canyon started strong in the first set, taking a 21-11 lead over Palmer Ridge. But with freshman Emily Klahn behind the service line, the Bears strung together a 12-point run to reclaim the lead and ultimately won the first set 25-22. Palmer Ridge won the second set 25-11 before closing out another sweep with a 27-25 win in the third.

Palmer Ridge is ranked No. 1 in 4A according to the Colorado High School Activities Association coaches poll, followed by Cheyenne Mountain, Coronado and Discovery Canyon at No. 4.

Palmer Ridge went on a 13-1 run to end the second set before Discovery Canyon bounced back to challenge in the third. The Thunder took a 6-2 lead early before a point-for-point battle ensued.

“Ultimately these kinds of wins are what is going to prepare us for state,” Bradley said. “We are grateful to see high-level competition. These kinds of pressure situations don’t happen often and I think we saw a lot of those tonight. The girls saw the opportunity to try to improve in those situations and push each other on the court.”

Palmer Ridge has won 21 consecutive sets to start the season 7-0. And the team grows more confident with every set win.

Senior outside hitter Riley Anderson said she believed she knew her team’s potential in the second match of the season when it beat Lewis-Palmer in straight sets.

“This year when we finally beat them, I think we all just knew we can win state, and be the first 4A team in quite a few years (not named Lewis-Palmer or Cheyenne Mountain) to take state,” Anderson said. “And I think now that we just beat DCC, we definitely have a chance. It was exciting to come out and see everyone play their best against a challenging team.”

Cheyenne Mountain won five consecutive 4A championships from 2008-12, and again in 2015. Lewis-Palmer won back-to-back 4A titles in 2013 and 14, and won four straight from 2016-19.

Palmer Ridge freshman Eva Larochelle was in the stands at the Denver Coliseum in November 2019 when the Bears lost the 4A title match.

“It was stressful for me and I wasn’t even on the court,” Larochelle said. “Knowing I was coming to PR and seeing how they were playing ... they were a really good team last year but I really think this year we can pull it off.”

But the Bears have plans beyond 2021. With freshmen like Larochelle and Klahn, and sophomore talent in setter Kyra Kisting and opposite Claire Johnson, Bradley believes, with the right coaching, the volleyball championship torch could be passed a few miles down the road from Lewis-Palmer to Palmer Ridge.

“I think if we do our job as coaches we will be pretty set for the next four years at least,” Bradley said. “It’s not just the starting six that we have to rely on, we have a ton of talent, a ton of freshmen who have come in and they’re performing for us so far, so it’s been exciting to watch. They are a fun team.”

Contact the writer: lindsey.smith@gazette.com

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