DENVER | The Cherokee Trail girls volleyball team played much better against Centennial League rival Cherry Creek Thursday in the opening match of the Class 5A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum.

The 10th-seeded Cougars were swept by the seventh-seeded Bruins in their league meeting exactly a month earlier, but coach Harry Hendon’s team had leads in all five sets before they finally succumbed to Cherry Creek, which prevailed 19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-28, 15-10.

The defeat sends Cherokee Trail (17-9) into the elimination bracket, where it will face the loser of the second round match between No. 8 Fossil Ridge or No. 1 Valor Christian that was on court later Thursday.

The Cougars came out on fire in the opening set, maintained a lead of at least four points most of the way and grew it to as many as nine following back-to-back kills from senior Ariana Heyneman. Cherokee Trail clinched the opening win with a successful attack by senior Avery Gottschalk followed by an ace from senior Zoe Ackerman.

The second set started out equally well for the Cougars, who raced out to a 4-1 lead with junior Gwen Mitchell serving. They had a lead as large as seven at 11-4 before the Bruins began to creep back in. Cherry Creek came all the way back to forge a 15-15 deadlock, the first of seven ties the rest of the way and the Bruins recorded the last two points to even the match.

Cherokee Trail pulled out of a tie to go up by five points in the set at 20-15 as junior Emily Schwab recorded an ace and the Bruins put an attack wide, but Cherry Creek edged its way until it tied it up 23-23 and again came up with the final two points to win it.

The Cougars got those crucial points at the end of yet another tight set in the fourth, as they staved off match point three times in a win that was sealed by a successful back row attack from senior Sanaa Grant followed by an attack from Mitchell that snuck inside the antennae and through Cherry Creek’s block.

The first-to-15 fifth set was tied five times in the early going before the Bruins claimed six of the final eight points to earn the hard-fought victory.

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 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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