Freshmen volleyball players make instant impact in Palmer Ridge win over The Classical Academy

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MONUMENT - Palmer Ridge freshman Mac Russ crushed a get-out-of-the way kill to open Thursday's season opener. Fellow-classmate Riley Simpson quickly added another strike.

And just like that - the group gave a glimpse of what could be an exciting future for the Bears.

Russ finished with 18 kills, Simpson added another 11, and Palmer Ridge started four freshmen in its 25-18, 25-23, 25-15 win over The Classical Academy.

"I think this is just the start of more to come," Palmer Ridge coach Jessen Miller said. "The freshmen are outstanding and they're leading the path for the players that are going to come in the future."

Junior captain Summer Reflogal added 12 kills and Grace McIntosh had 50 assists in her debut for the Bears, who beat the Titans in a second straight opener.

Palmer Ridge is coming off an 18-7 season with a varsity squad that includes five freshmen and two sophomores.

As the youngsters wowed with thunderous blasts and animated celebrations, the home student section serenaded their newcomers with chants from the bleachers.

"We're a special group," Russ said. "We have a special team, we have amazing teammates, we have amazing coaches and staff, and amazing people who back us up here at Palmer Ridge."

The Bears (1-0) scored five of the last six points to win the first set and Kori Woods and Simpson ended a tight second set with consecutive kills.

Then, in a runaway third, Russ wrapped up the match when she blasted a ball so hard it knocked down TCA's libero.

"She was crazy," TCA outside hitter Raegan Bervig cracked. "She was hitting hard. I'm so impressed."

Bervig and Graysen Kraft each had four kills to pace the Titans (0-1), who may have played their last game for a while with coach Kiyo Greene on the bench.

Greene said her family is adopting a child from out of state and will take leave. She hopes to return this season.

Greene sat alongside assistant coach Cayse Osterlund, who will serve as the interim coach while she's gone.

Osterlund said he was excited by what he saw from his team.

"Our girls really stepped up," Osterlund said. "Obviously we're undersized compared to their team. We were game the whole time and kept it competitive. Our girls really stepped up to another level. I think they know they're capable now of playing at that level.

"That bodes well for the rest of the year."

Palmer Ridge will travel to Thompson Valley for its next game on Aug. 31. TCA will host Falcon on Tuesday.