Lewis-Palmer Rangers retain state volleyball title

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Photo - The Lewis-Palmer Rangers pick themselves up after mobbing the court after defeating the Valor Christian Eagles 3-0 at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday, November 11, 2017.
The Lewis-Palmer Rangers pick themselves up after mobbing the court after defeating the Valor Christian Eagles 3-0 at the Denver Coliseum on Saturday, November 11, 2017.

DENVER — The Lewis-Palmer volleyball team has been there before.

But judging by the way they celebrated with a dog pile and tears of joy after their 25-22, 25-18, 35-33 sweep of No. 2 Valor Christian on Saturday night at Denver Coliseum, it was hard to believe that this wasn’t the Rangers’ first time winning a state title.

“This means the world,” senior Jadie DeLange said.

The win marked the Rangers’ fourth Class 4A title since 2013, and seventh overall.

The Rangers completed their second consecutive undefeated season, extended their winning streak to 58 matches and earned their first state title under head coach Wade Baxter. Earlier in the day, the Rangers suffered their first and only set loss in the state tournament but eventually topped No. 4 Niwot 19-25, 25-16, 25-21, 25-10 in the semifinals.

Lewis-Palmer also swept Mullen and Roosevelt on the first day of the tournament.

Against Valor Christian, juniors Riley Putnicki and Trinity Jackson led the top-seeded Rangers with nine and eight kills, respectively, while junior Kessandra Krutsinger finished seven blocks and junior McKenna Sciacca had 32 assists.

It wasn’t until the third set that the Rangers encountered Valor Christian’s stubborn and relentless play. It took 68 points, but Lewis-Palmer came out the eventual winner.

“We worked our butts off and played for each other and that’s all that matters,” Krutsinger said.

L-P won the first set despite being down by three points on four separate occasions. Midway through, high-flying Krutsinger had a kill to tie it at 16-16 to ignite the Rangers’ comeback that ended on a 4-0 run.

In the second set, the Rangers busted out of an 8-8 tie with a series of rallies.

The state championship was an ending the Rangers wanted all along but knew it wouldn’t be easy to accomplish, especially after Susan Odenbaugh stepped down and Baxter took over the program after he coached the school’s junior varsity squad for a decade.

Baxter guided the Rangers to an undefeated season with just six set losses.

“We dropped some sets along the way that we shouldn’t have dropped,” he said. “Every time that happened, we came back really strong. So maybe dropping that first set to Niwot in the semifinals was really the kick in the pants we needed and to make sure that we had to play as hard as we can and the hardest that we’ve ever played.”

When it was all said and done, the Rangers celebrated as if they won their first state title.