Volleyball: Cherokee Trail’s 5A state title defense hinges on regional tournament at Fossil Ridge

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Cherokee Trail High School's Mollee Picchione, Kenzie Hendon and Robyn Krause on Thursday Aug. 18, 2016 at Cherokee Trail High School. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel
Seniors Mollee Picchione, left, Kenzie Hendon, center, and Robyn Krause are holdovers from the Cherokee Trail volleyball team that won last season’s Class 5A state championship. For a chance to defend their title, the 24th-seeded Cougars must win the 5A Region 1 tournament at Fossil Ridge on Nov. 4, 2016. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

AURORA | Defending a state championship in any sport is difficult and the Cherokee Trail volleyball team has a big obstacle to its repeat chances.

The Cougars’ emotional, inspiring run to last season’s Class 5A state championship stirred hearts and minds last season.

Coach Terry Miller’s team faces a very tough challenge if it hopes to return to the Denver Coliseum and make it to the top of the 5A volleyball world again. The Cougars drew the No. 24 seed in the 36-team postseason, which put them in the 5A Region 1 tournament at top-seeded Fossil Ridge along with No. 36 Columbine.

Cherokee Trail faces Columbine (9-14) in a match schedule for 5:15 p.m. and then go against Fossil Ridge (20-3) at approximately 7 p.m.

A very challenging schedule has taken its toll on Cherokee Trail’s won-loss record — 11-12, with six losses in its last seven matches — but it should also have prepared the Cougars for the higher level of play in the postseason.

While a number of young players such as freshman outside hitter Sami Campion and freshman setter Sydney Cole continue to acclimate to the challenge of varsity play, Cherokee Trail has back seniors Kenzie Hendon, Robyn Krause, Mollee Picchione, Leah van der Sanden, Londyn Johnson and Emily Longnecker from last season’s title run.

With the graduation of 2015 Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year Shannon Webb, Hendon has picked up a lot of the slack offensive and ranks fifth in 5A in total kills with 339 (3.9 kills per set).

Fossil Ridge lost its last regular season match, but it was to 4A powerhouse Lewis-Palmer. The SaberCats’ only other two losses of the season came to 5A No. 3 Fairview and 3A No. 1 Eaton.

Full 5A regional pairings and schedule, here.

Courtney Oakes is Aurora Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel

2016 CLASS 5A REGION 1 VOLLEYBALL

Nov. 4 at Fossil Ridge H.S.

Teams: No. 1 Fossil Ridge (20-3), NO. 24 CHEROKEE TRAIL (11-12), No. 36 Columbine (9-14)

Schedule: No. 36 Columbine vs. No. 1 Fossil Ridge, 3:30 p.m.; No. 36 Columbine vs. NO. 24 CHEROKEE TRAIL, 5:15 p.m.; NO. 24 CHEROKEE TRAIL vs. No. 1 Fossil Ridge, 7 p.m.