Calm and collected, Lewis-Palmer survives Palmer Ridge in PPAC opener

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Photo - Lewis-Palmer junior McKenna Sciacca (5) sets the ball for junior Kessandra Krutsinger (2) in the third set. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers defeated the Palmer Ridge Bears in girls' volley ball in three straight sets on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at Palmer Ridge High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing
Lewis-Palmer junior McKenna Sciacca (5) sets the ball for junior Kessandra Krutsinger (2) in the third set. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers defeated the Palmer Ridge Bears in girls' volley ball in three straight sets on Thursday, September 28, 2017 at Palmer Ridge High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

MONUMENT — Down by a few points?

Not a big deal for the seasoned Lewis-Palmer volleyball team.

The Rangers played from behind on several occasions against Palmer Ridge on Thursday but they remained composed each time to rally back in each set to gain a 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 sweep in the 4A/5A Pikes Peak Athletics Conference opener. It capped off an exciting night, in which hundreds filled up the Palmer Ridge gym to watch the crosstown rivalry matchup.

In the final set, Lewis-Palmer was down 20-16. But the defending Class 4A champion Rangers (13-0 overall) didn't show any signs of panic, wrapping up the match with a 9-3 run.

Throughout the night, the Rangers were in similar situations against the young Palmer Ridge team, which dipped to 11-2 overall. In the first set, they faced seven lead changes and were down twice by three points but managed to escape and take the 1-0 lead.

In the second set, Lewis-Palmer kept within no more than two points before tying it at 18-18 and finishing on a 7-3 rally. 

How did they stay so composed? One word: experience.

"They've played so much volleyball before," Rangers coach Wade Baxter said. "They've played behind, they've come back. Nothing rattles them. For whatever reason when it's tight, the last five or six points, that's when we play our best and it’s been that way all season."

And they know that teams are out to get them because of the state-champion targets on their backs.

Behind a boisterous home crowd, the Bears faced perhaps their toughest challenge so far this season. They competed well, said Palmer Ridge coach Jessen Miller, even with a roster that featured four freshmen and three sophomores.

Palmer Ridge freshman Riley Simpson had eight kills, junior Summer Reflogal contributed with seven kills and freshman Mac Russ and sophomore Brooklynn Gamble each had three blocks.

"We have to remember we are young and we're making those young mistakes, but we're also growing," Miller said. "So the team we see right now is not the team that we're going to see at the end of the season."

In the end, it was the Rangers who remained calm, cool and collected.

It showed in the final stats, as senior Nicole Buckley and junior Riley Putnicki led with nine kills, followed by seven kills from junior Kessandra Krutsinger. Junior McKenna Sciacca recorded 31 assists, and Gianna Bartalo and Kennedy Shelley came up with 14 and 11 digs, respectively.

"We are an older team, so we do have that experience of keeping our composure," said junior Adelaide Feek, who had nine kills for the Rangers. "We're able to maintain our energy and not let the big points they had and the crowd get into our heads."