COLORADO SPRINGS | The Grandview girls volleyball team came into the 2021 season as the preseason favorite to win the Class 5A state championship, followed closely by rival Cherry Creek.
When the season ended Saturday night at the World Arena, the Bruins leapfrogged the Wolves to finish on top with a four-set victory in the all-Centennial League, all-Cherry Creek Schools clash for the big prize.
Third-seeded Grandview couldn’t close out top-seeded Cherry Creek in an opening set that was there for the taking and ultimately couldn’t stop the momentum in the final two sets as the Bruins — fueled by the big play of 6-foot-7 middle blocker Carter Booth — prevailed 27-25, 26-28, 25-17, 25-14 to win the rubber match between the Centennial League powers.
“Steve (Cherry Creek coach Huntingdale) and I were talking and said ‘hey, expect to see you in the finals,’ and he said the same thing. We made it happen and we made it entertaining, but they just opened it up after the first two setters. They were just better in the last two.”
The victory gave Cherry Creek its first state championship since 2008 — when it also defeated Grandview — and the sixth in program history. Grandview also sought its sixth state championship and first since 2014.
The championship matchup — the first between two Centennial League teams since Grandview defeated Arapahoe in the 2013 final — served as the tiebreaker in the season series between the powerhouse programs. The Bruins swept the Wolves (25-23, 25-16, 26-16) in the league matchup, but the Wolves turned the tables in the final of the Centennial League Challenge with a 21-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-18.
The final was expected to be a good one, especially coming at the end of a 5A state tournament that was exceptionally competitive and included the majority of matches taking well over their allotted time, creating a time crunch at the end of each day. The tournament moved back to its double-elimination format after going to single-elimination due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was an exhausting tournament and we only played four matches,” Graham said. “I can’t imagine what it was like for the teams that had to play extra matches to get here.”
Just six months after playing for the state championship of the 2020 season, pushed to the spring by the pandemic, Grandview definitely had the experience edge on the big stage.
Seven players who had seen at least some action in the four-set title match loss to Rampart — seniors Isabel Bennett, Maya Deferme and Zoe Michael, junior Haley Glunz and Gabriella Placide and sophomores Emerson Deferme and Brenna Kelly — returned to the court for the Wolves.
Grandview started strong and though the Bruins eventually dug out of a six-point hole to tie it late, Grandview twice had chances to clinch the set, but Booth (a University of Minnesota signee) saved one point with a block and an error tied it up again before Cherry Creek won the last two points.
“That was a tough one,” Graham said. “They were playing very nervous over there and probably missed five or six serves. We had a nice lead, but they calmed down and we gave the momentum away. If we got that one, we would be going five now.”
It was the Wolves’ turn to rally in the second set, coming back from several early four-point deficits and staving off a set point itself on a big dig from Emerson Deferme followed by a Glunz kill. Placide split a Bruins’ block for the go-ahead point and a Cherry Creek attack sailed wide to clinch the set.
The Bruins made the key runs in each of the final two sets.
In the third set, Booth’s long tip found the floor just inside the baseline and the she powered a shot over a Grandview block to create a five-point cushion that would only get larger.
Emerson Deferme gave the Wolves a surge in the fourth set with a series that saw her record two kills and a block to create a 12-12 tie, but Grandview scored only two more points the rest of the way.
The Wolves expect to have another talented roster back next season — including Glunz, who had a match-high 17 kills in the final and Emerson Deferme, who added 13 — with even more experience, though the graduation of Bennett and Maya Deferme — who combined for 15 blocks, while Deferme racked up 35 assists, in the title match — Michael and others will be hard to replace.
Even with the shortened 2020 season, Grandview is 37-10 over the past two seasons.
NOTES: Grandview first made a Class 5A state championship match in 2003, which started a streak that has seen the Wolves make the final 12 times in the past 19 seasons. The loss to Cherry Creek puts Grandview’s all-time championship match record at 5-7, with titles coming back-to-back in 2004-05 and 2013-14 with another in 2007 under former coach Patty Childress. …The volleyball team brought home the second trophy of the weekend for Grandview, which was also involved in the 5A boys soccer state title game, which was also played in Colorado Springs. In that match, the Wolves prevailed 3-1 over Fossil Ridge.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports