The boys state volleyball tournaments takes place in Aurora and every one of the three city teams that earned a chance to play in it believe there is no reason why they can’t win it all.
Douglas County was the prohibitive favorite coming into the sport’s first sanctioned season a year ago and promptly steamrolled its way to the state title to cap an undefeated season.
This season, the consensus is that no such overwhelming favorite exists among the eight teams that will play May 5-7 at Overland High School, which should make for three days of very competitive matches.
Third-seeded Eaglecrest, fifth-seeded Cherokee Trail and eighth-seeded Regis Jesuit all earned their chances to play the state tournaments with victories in winner-take-all regional matches and now turn their attention to going after the big prize.
“There’s just a bunch of good teams and I feel like we have a good chance,” Eaglecrest coach Chad Bond said of his team, which comes into the state tournament with a five-match winning streak.
“When we play well, we are a very good team and that gives us the opportunity to win against anybody we are going to face,” he added.
Indeed the Raptors are playing their best at the right time and go into a state tournament in which they have defeated four of the other teams. They split the season series with top-seeded Cherry Creek and did the same with Cherokee Trail, while they defeated sixth-seeded Legend — their first round opponent in a 6 p.m. match May 5 — while they lost to second-seeded Bear Creek in an abbreviated tournament match.
Eaglecrest has a large core returning from a team that reached last season’s semifinals, including senior setter Alfred Maiava, who ranks second in the state in total assists even as he has shifted to the outside to do some hitting as well. Junior Ayden Shaw leads the Raptors with 216 kills on the season.
Coach Mike Thomsen’s Cougars distributed the distribution duties and didn’t miss much of a beat despite the change. A whopping 20 kills from sophomore John Clinton — who has accrued the second-most kills in the state — and 12 more from senior Hudson Harms gave Cherokee Trail the offense it needed to advance.
Thomsen also feels his team is battle-tested as it also has a victory over top-seeded Cherry Creek and has defeated state qualifiers Regis Jesuit and Legend as well, while it took Bear Creek to five sets before losing.
The Cougars open with one of the tournament’s somewhat unknown teams in No. 4 Discovery Canyon, which is undefeated, but only played one state qualifier (Douglas County) in the regular season.
“This year, the field seems to be pretty evenly matched,” said Thomsen, who will have Cole back in the lineup in at least some capacity for the 4 p.m. May 5 match. “I think you’ll get good matches throughout. …We play in a tough area, so I don’t think any of us will go into any match and be intimidated.”
Regis Jesuit pulled off an upset (at least as far as seedings were concerned) with a five-set regional win at No. 7 Thornton, which earned coach Kristi Gauss’ team a second straight appearance in the state tournament (recap, here) (photo gallery, here).
The Raiders — who open with No. 1 Cherry Creek at 4 p.m. May 5 — have eight losses, but have matched up with just about state team and been competitive with them all.
Regis Jesuit has one of the tournament’s most explosive player in senior outside hitter Tristan Christofferson, who missed a number of matches during the regular season, but averaged 4.7 kills per set played, which is the third-highest average in the state.
The tournament has a double-elimination format.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports