Volleyball: Aurora teams aim for state return after odd absence

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Junior Lorrin Poulter (12) and the Eaglecrest volleyball team won 11 more matches in 2016 as in the previous season, but the marked improvement still wasn’t enough to get the Raptors back into the Class 5A state tournament. Aurora teams were shut out of the Denver Coliseum in 2016 for the first time since 2008 and aim to change that in 2017. (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Aurora Sentinel)

Aurora volleyball teams are ready to turn the page on last season, when the state tournament was decided completely without them.

For the first time in a decade, not a single city program managed to make it to the Denver Coliseum, a rare event that was the result of some odd circumstances in addition to the impact of the newly-instituted RPI feature for determining the makeup of the postseason.

Aurora programs learned to leave little to chance if at all possible in the 2017 season.

In a new era after original coach Patty Childress stepped down, Grandview missed out on the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade. Some of it had to do with misfortune, as the Wolves were swapped out of the winnable regional they should have been in and put in one against Mountain Vista to avoid league matchups.

The Golden Eagles peaked in the postseason, kept Grandview out of the state tournament and went on to finish as the state runners-up to Fossil Ridge.

Graham could only use the experience as a lesson and emphasize that every match is important to help the Wolves get as high as possible in the final RPI standings and hopefully cut down the chances of freak occurrences.

That is going to be difficult given the brutal schedule Grandview has in front of it, but the talent is certainly there. And so is height with the arrival of 6-foot-3 freshman Addison O’Grady, who moved into the lineup as the starting right side hitter.

Senior Kylee Harr — the 5A state high jump champion last track season — is another force in the middle for the Wolves.

Eaglecrest had a big bounceback season in 2016 and looks to continue the momentum in the new season, with junior Lorrin Poulter leading the way. An All-Centennial League first teamer last season, the versatile Poulter will hit and set for coach Tanya Bond’s group.

Cherokee Trail couldn’t recapture what it had during its run to the 2015 5A state championship, but coach Terry Miller is optimistic this season’s team can get hot at the right time of the season. Sophomore Sami Campion has come back as a much-improved offensive weapon and freshman Amaya Messier could be a significant difference maker when she gets adjusted to varsity play.

Overland coach Diane Swan has an all-conference libero back in Georgia Cousins, part of a large and devoted senior class that could get the program into double figures in wins this season.

Smoky Hill is under new direction for the first time in a long time, as Scott Nugent took over for Carrie Glenn. Seniors Ravyn and Taylor Burns will be key.

Regis Jesuit made that transition to new leadership last season under Ellen Miks, who aims to help the Raiders get back to the state tournament this season with a group with some experience.

Headed by last season’s coach of the year, Doug Walker, EMAC champion Rangeview looks to remain competitive despite the graduation of player of the year Tyler Speller. Junior Lexi Hurtado set and hit last season, but Walker will use her primarily on the outside to provide needed offense.

Vista PEAK coach Simon Morwood returns versatile sophomore Lindsey Fernandez plus a variety of seniors that could make a run in the EMAC, while Aurora Central gets back two all-conference players from last season’s 10-win outfit in senior Akolda Redgebol and junior Ana De Los Santos.

Hinkley built up its level of competitiveness in recent seasons under now-departed coach Jenn Hier, while new coach Emma McCourt will try to keep the Thunderbirds trending upward despite some key losses.

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

2017 AURORA VOLLEYBALL

Aurora players to watch — Returning all-conference selections: Ana De Los Santos, Aurora Central, jr., libero (All-EMAC 1st team); Georgia Cousins, Overland, sr., libero (All-Centennial League second team); Holly Edwards, Vista PEAK, sr., libero (All-EMAC HM); Lindsey Fernandez, Vista PEAK, soph., Opp (All-EMAC 1st team); Alondra Gonzalez, Hinkley, jr., libero (All-EMAC 2nd team); Kylie Harr, Grandview, sr., MH (All-Centennial League 2nd team); Lexi Hurtado, Rangeview, jr., S (All-EMAC 1st team); Nina Lewis-Langford, Aurora Central, sr., MH (All-EMAC HM); Ryan Nelson, Rangeview, sr., MH (All-EMAC HM); Lorrin Poulter, Eaglecrest, jr., S/OH (All-Centennial League 1st team); Akolda Redgebol, Aurora Central, sr., OH (All-EMAC 2nd team); Angie Rivera, Vista PEAK, sr., MH (All-EMAC HM); Jadyn Wangaard, Vista PEAK, sr., OH (All-EMAC HM); Other Aurora players to watch: Myah Blubaugh, OH, Grandview, sr.; Audrey Black, OH/RS, Eaglecrest, soph.; Cheyanne Boe, OH/RS, Rangeview, jr.; Ravyn Burns, OH, Smoky Hill, sr.; Taylor Burns, MB, Smoky Hill, sr.; Sami Campion, OH, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Brooklinn Christopher, OH, Overland, soph.; Sydney Cole, S, Cherokee Trail, soph.; Jena Crawford, S, Vista PEAK, fr.; Mykaela Dickerson, OH/RS, Overland, sr.; Kira Ervin, OH, Overland, soph.; Eitakina Fifita, S, Hinkley, jr.; Kylee Flynn, Libero, Rangeview, sr.; Alex Henderson, OH, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Savannah Holt, Libero, Eaglecrest, soph.; Nola Johnson, MB, Rangeview, fr.; Georgia Klumker, Libero, Grandview, soph.; Liz Koch, MB, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Elsa Lamphere, OH, Grandview, soph.; Ronnie Lehnert, Libero, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Amaya Messier, OH, Cherokee Trail, fr.; Ashley Mooney, OH, Smoky Hill, jr.; Lauren Myli, MB/OH, Eaglecrest, sr.; Addison O’Grady, RS, Grandview, fr.; Ambur Pippins, MB, Gateway, sr.; Kiyah Pixler, S, Gateway, jr.; Sheridan Prince, OH, Gateway, sr.; Seiloni Sanft, OH, Hinkley, sr.; Carly Schwulst, MB, Regis Jesuit, sr.; Savannah Spitzer, MB, Cherokee Trail, jr.; Maria St. Pierre, MB, Overland, jr.; Hanna Todd, MB, Smoky hill, sr.; Brooke Vercauteran, OH, Regis Jesuit, jr.; Gabby Vogt, OH, Eaglecrest, soph.; Maya Waddington, OH, Eaglecrest, jr.; Cierra Williams, Libero, Cherokee Trail, sr.; Payton Wolf, S, Grandview, sr.

More key dates and information on the 2017 Aurora volleyball season, here.