Lewis-Palmer volleyball team counting on uncanny ability to replace talent to continue

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Photo - Lewis-Palmer's McKenna Sciacca defends the net against Holy Family during the first set of the 4A Colorado state volleyball tournament finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at the Denver Coliseum.  (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Lewis-Palmer's McKenna Sciacca defends the net against Holy Family during the first set of the 4A Colorado state volleyball tournament finals Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at the Denver Coliseum. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Given the loss of three star-studded players, as well as a longtime coach, Lewis-Palmer would appear to have a giant void heading into the season.

The Rangers simply label it opportunity.

"We just look a little bit different," L-P sophomore Gianna Bartalo said.

Wade Baxter is in at coach for the Rangers after Susan Odenbaugh stepped aside after 15 seasons in March.

The trio of talents that led the Rangers to a perfect 29-0 record - Lydia Bartalo (University of Denver), Elizabeth Reich (University of Portland) and Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year Michaela Putnicki (Penn State) - are gone, too.

But if anybody can absorb such a loss, it's been the Rangers.

Winners of three of the past four state titles in Class 4A, the Rangers, and their seemingly abundant depth, are accustomed to replacing lost talent with more of it.

In 2014, they graduated program leaders Alexa Smith and Nicole Montgomery, and still went on to become the runner-up and state champion the next two years.

"We look real strong," said Baxter, who was the team's JV coach for the past nine years. "If any program I guess can replace three players like that, it seems like it might be us. . We'll notice that they're missing but I think we'll be able to recover from that."

Gianna Bartalo headlines the returning pieces for L-P. Joining sister Lydia on the court last season, the freshman showed her mastery on defense, compiling team bests in digs (413) and serve receptions (403).

McKenna Sciacca is also back after leading the team with 939 assists as a sophomore.

"We're all just a bunch of hard workers," Sciacca said. "We all want to win."

Padding that depth, the Rangers added Iowa transfer Trinity Jackson, as well as Jadie DeLange, who assumed the role of "team manager" last year after sitting out with an injured back.

DeLange said the team's biggest strength will come from the defensive end.

"Our defense is something I've never seen before," said the senior outside hitter, who had surgery last November to repair a herniated disk. "Maybe our offense will be as high as it was last year, but our defense is just spectacular. I mean, they do not let balls drop."

The Rangers have lost a combined six games in the past four seasons. They along with Cheyenne Mountain have won every title in 4A over the past nine seasons.

L-P opens with Ralston Valley at home at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.