Middle Park drops state bid after losing opening matches | SkyHiNews.com

Middle Park drops state bid after losing opening matches

Middle Park's hunt for a state volleyball titled ended suddenly this weekend with a heartbreaking pair of back-to-back losses Friday and Saturday morning in the Colorado State 3A Championship Tournament.

The action got underway early Friday morning as the Panthers took on Greeley's University High School Bulldogs. The Panthers entered the tournament on a high note, rolling in from an undefeated showing at Regionals last weekend and riding a four game winning streak. The first match of the State Tournament started off well for Middle Park as the girls from East Grand pulled out a hard fought first set victory, defeating the Bulldogs 26-24.

The Panthers could not keep that momentum going though and fell in the second set 20-25. The third and fourth sets were both more of the same with the hometown girls pressuring their opponents throughout each set but still unable to pull out the win. The third set saw the Panthers lose 21-25 while the fourth ended 19-25 in favor of the Bulldogs.

The next morning the lady Panthers returned to the court in the Denver Coliseum, where all the tournament's matches were held, for a matchup against the Loveland based Resurrection Christian Cougars. This second match followed the same dynamic the ladies saw in their first match of the tournament with Middle Park closely contesting each match, winning one, but losing three on their way to a set loss.

The Cougars came roaring off the blocks Saturday morning and put the Panthers away in the first set 19-25. The second set saw a similar result as Middle Park fell to their Front Range challengers 17-25. In the third set the ladies from East Grand rebounded and found their feet, winning the set 27-25. But it was too little too late as the Panthers fell in the fourth, and lost the match, 17-25.

Despite the tough loss the Panthers posted some solid stats for their final two matches of the 2017 season. Senior Bailey Martin once again led the offensive efforts, racking up 23 kills over the weekend against both opponents. Close behind her was fellow senior Kiera Barr who posted 22 kills during the state tournament. Junior Morgan Shaw anchored their efforts with 13 kills of her own, which was followed closely by her junior teammate Sammy Phillips who tallied 12. Sammy's older sister, senior Harley Phillips, recorded nine kills including six against the Cougars while senior Layne Neiberger had three.

From the server's spot on the court the Panthers managed to put up nine aces, with seven of those coming in their match against Resurrection Christian. Harley Phillips was the leading Panther server and posted three aces during the state championships, include both of the two aces the team tallied in their match against the Bulldogs. Senior Lexi Blixt was next in line and had two aces against the Cougars. Also posting one ace a piece were Neiberger, Sammy Phillips, Shaw, and Barr.

On the defensive side of things Blixt, Barr and Neiberger were the powerhouses with Blixt guiding the team behind her. Blixt tallied 43 digs over the weekend, which was closely matched by Barr who recorded 42. Neiberger also had a strong showing with 36 digs of her own. Further back was Sammy Phillips with 16 digs and Harley Phillips with 12. Shaw and Martin rounded out the defensive stats for the Panthers with eight and four digs respectively.