Just two Aurora programs made the boys volleyball state tournament and they will face each other right way.

Second-seeded Cherokee Trail and seventh-seeded Eaglecrest earned spots in the May 11-13 state tournament — which will be played at Overland High School for a second straight year — and the two local rivals drew each other in the opening round.

When the Cougars and Raptors launch the first serve at 5 p.m. Thursday, it will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two programs, both of which have fairly veteran lineups and who know each other quite well. The winning side will get off to a good start in the double-elimination tournament, while the loser will have its back against the wall as it hopes to survive.


Cherokee Trail finished 1-2 at last season’s state tournament, but coach Mike Thomsen’s team is zeroed in on a much bigger performance this time.

The Cougars come into the tournament with a sparkling 22-3 record (including a current 11-match win streak) and all three of their losses came to teams in the state tournament (No. 1 Discovery Canyon, No. 3 Valor Christian and No. 4 Legend). They evened the season series with the Titans and Eagles, who they defeated in five sets to win the Centennial League Challenge to end the regular season.

Cherokee Trail swept through the Region 2 tournament on its home floor May 5 with a 25-20, 25-12, 25-17 victory over Cheyenne Mountain followed by a 24-26, 25-16, 25-19, 25-17 win over Regis Jesuit in an all-Aurora matchup. It was another challenge from the Raiders — who stretched Cherokee Trail to five sets just a few days earlier — but the Cougars prevailed.

The region showed a balanced effort from a team that has a top-end talent in junior John Clinton — who racked up an astonishing 32 kills in the five-set regular season win over Regis Jesuit and averages 3.7 kills per set — while junior Chase Jensen and sophomore Jaeden Barnes were effective as well.

Cherokee Trail has plenty of experience on the floor from Clinton —who has started since he was a freshman — plus seniors Daniel and Rocky Xiao, Owen Collitt, Jaime Coronel and Rohith Thomas.

Eaglecrest senior outside hitter Ayden Shaw ranks third in the state in kills and is a key weapon for the Raptors, who enter the season tournament on a five-match winning streak. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

Eaglecrest, meanwhile, pulled off one of just two upsets across all regional play as the Raptors defeated No. 7 Poudre School District in five sets, just like they had in the regular season. Castle View, the 11th seed, had the other upset at regionals when it defeated No. 6 Thornton.

Coach Chad Bond’s Eaglecrest team comes into the state tournament with a 17-8 record and seven of its losses have come to teams in the tournament (three to Cherokee Trail, two to Valor Christian and one apiece to Bear Creek and Castle View). The Raptors own a win over the Sabercats.

Eaglecrest has a five-match winning streak working and its only loss in the last eight matches came to Valor Christian in the semifinals of the Centennial League Challenge.

The Raptors have an experienced roster as well, which is led by senior outside hitter Ayden Shaw, who ranks third in the state in total kills on the season. Senior Dennis Ancheta is an experienced libero who ranks in the top 10 in the state in digs despite missing time due to injury.

Sophomore Jackson Shaw has come to play a huge role this season offensively, while senior Logan Taylor and sophomore Matthew Dye have taken on bigger roles in the middle, where both starters from last season graduated. Freshman Dillan Ancheta has settled in nicely at setter and averages 7.6 assists per set and senior Andrew White is an experienced, versatile piece in the lineup for Bond.

Cherokee Trail won the three previous matchups between the teams, including two-set meetings at tournaments at Eaglecrest (25-20, 25-17) and Legend (28-26, 25-22), while they took the Centennial League matchup 25-23, 26-24, 29-27, though both sides were without some key personnel due to injury.

Four of the seven sets between Aurora teams needed extra points to decide, so the opening round matchup could be one of the most competitive of the four (the others are No. 8 Castle View vs. No. 1 Discovery Canyon, No. 5 Douglas County vs. No. 4 Legend and No. 6 Bear Creek vs. No. 3 Valor Christian).

The loser of the Cherokee Trail-Eaglecrest first round matches turns around for a 7 p.m. matchup against the loser of the Discovery Canyon-Castle View match in the first set of elimination matches, while the winner advances to a 5 p.m. May 12 championship bracket match state champion) against the other winner.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at sports@sentinelcolorado.com. Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

Courtney Oakes is sports Editor and photographer with Sentinel Colorado. A Denver East High School alum. He came to the Sentinel in 2001 and since then has received a number of professional awards from...

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