Lewis-Palmer girls' volleyball shakes off rust versus Legend

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Photo - Lewis-Palmer junior Riley Putnicki (10) and junior Kessandra Krutsinger (2) block the shot of Legend freshman Rylie Kadel (6) in the third set. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers defeated the Legend Titans in 3 straight sets in girls' volleyball on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing
Lewis-Palmer junior Riley Putnicki (10) and junior Kessandra Krutsinger (2) block the shot of Legend freshman Rylie Kadel (6) in the third set. The Lewis-Palmer Rangers defeated the Legend Titans in 3 straight sets in girls' volleyball on Tuesday, September 5, 2017 at Lewis-Palmer High School. Photo by Isaiah J. Downing

When you’re the reigning state champion in any sport, there’s always a little pressure on your shoulders heading into the season - that is, unless you’re the Lewis-Palmer girls’ volleyball team.

The Rangers are no stranger to success on the state’s biggest stage, with four straight appearances in the state title game, but Tuesday night, Lewis-Palmer had to shake off some rust in a nonconference match against Legend. The Rangers handed Legend a decisive 3-0 loss, 25-16, 25-9, 25-21, but L-P coach Wade Baxter said the team started slow thanks to the long weekend.

“We looked like we hadn’t played in four days and we made a lot of errors we don’t normally make,” Baxter said. “While it was enough to win, we know that we gave away a lot of points that we can’t do against some other teams we are going to play this season.”

After taking a decisive 2-0 lead in the match, Lewis-Palmer (2-0) backed off in the third set as Legend (4-3) kept it close throughout the entire frame. The Titans spoiled three of the Rangers' match points before eventually falling 25-21 in the final set.

“I think we got a little frantic throughout the match,” Lewis-Palmer middle blocker Kessandra Krutsinger said. “We always want to pull ahead so far and crush everybody, but we have to realize we can’t be lazy and we have to keep progressing and working hard.”

“Tonight I just wanted to get better,” Legend coach Verlyn Rosenthal said. “We have five injuries right now and we are nicked up a little bit, but my kids are working hard and they want to get better.”

In the second set, Lewis-Palmer didn’t give Legend many opportunities to score, as the Rangers racked up a 15-2 run to end the second set 25-9, flexing their state-title reputation.

Sophomore libero Gianna Bartalo was behind the service line for Lewis-Palmer largest run of the decisive second set, and walked away with four aces. She also had nine digs and an assist.

“It’s so fun to be back there,” Bartalo said. “As a libero you don’t really have time to be on the offense, so when you’re serving and back there and scoring is really fun.”

Baxter said Bartalo has "incredible instincts" on the court, and along with returning talent from the 2016 state title team, the Rangers are in good shape to make another deep run in the postseason - despite being just two games in.

“It’s coach speak, we want to take every match at a time and all that, but we know we can go far," Baxter said. "We have the tools to do it, we graduated a lot of talent but we have a lot of talent to replace them.”

Leading that talent is captain Jadie DeLange, who led the Rangers with nine kills, followed by Taylor Buckley with eight.

McKenna Sciacca and Krutsinger had three blocks each.