What the Palmer Ridge volleyball team lacks in height it makes up for with quick ball movement and great communication.
The Bears executed that combination to near perfection against visiting Discovery Canyon on Oct. 10, defeating the Thunder in straight sets, 25-16, 25-22 and 25-17, in a key Class 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference match
“Our rotation is working really well,” said Palmer Ridge junior setter Josie Lopez. “We're running a triple-middle offense, which works well since we're a shorter team.”
Lopez helped the Bears improve to 4-1 in league, 10-4 overall. The victory all but clinched a postseason spot for Palmer Ridge. The Bears close out the league portion of their schedule against Air Academy (Oct. 15) and Cheyenne Mountain (Oct. 17).
“Our goal is to place in state,” said Bears senior libero Elle Sample, whose 178 digs leads the team in that category. “We've never been to state before and I think this will be the best year for us.”
Jasmine Sandoval is in her first year as Palmer Ridge's coach. A former college player, Sandoval has the girls playing at a consistently high physical and emotional level.
“Our biggest thing is to challenge ourselves and not play down to the other people's level and to play at our level consistently,” Sandoval said. “Tonight I think we did a very good job of pushing ourselves to finish a game and not just play point-to-point.”
After cruising in Game 1, the Bears and Thunder were tied 21-21 in the pivotal Game 2. But Palmer Ridge used a late run to put the game away.
“We still need to challenge our offense,” Sandoval said. “We're getting our passing down, but we still need to run plays and being smart with our offense. We need to see where the blockers are and have good ball placement on the court. We need to get those points and continue to rally back and forth.”
Bears senior outside hitter Carley Wilcox is a beneficiary of the up-tempo offense.
“Instead of having a right side, we have three middles,” said Wilcox, who leads the team in kills with 102. “For certain rotations the middle will play right side or outside. It helps to confuse people since we're a little short.”
As important as the victory was for Palmer Ridge, the loss was equally devastating for the Discovery Canyon (2-3 6-9). The Thunder is all but eliminated from postseason consideration.
“I felt like we came out to fight, but I guess we didn't have the energy and communication to pull it out,” said Discovery Canyon junior outside hitter Ally Fry, who leads the Thunder in kills with 110. “We just weren't focused enough to bring out a win. This was not our `A' game. It's disappointing.”
Thunder senior setter Carina Serratore said the team was out of sorts in warm ups.
“We need to come out focused in warm ups,” said Serratore, who has a team-leading 227 assists. “That's where it starts. Getting your mind ready for the game and coming out ready to play and ready to compete.
“We also need to talk more on the court, too. That's one of the big things we were lacking tonight. That keeps our energy up, big time.”
Thunder junior middle blocker Jen Schneible added that team unity has been a big reason for the Thunder's success this season.
“We play really well when we're in the gym and we're focused and we have a sense of urgency,” she said. “We're strongly connected as a team. We support each other a lot and are always there for each other. But when we feel the pressure we try really hard to win and psych ourselves out.”
Thunder coach Melissa Bravo said her team has made great strides this season.
“The girls have really improved a lot as a team and we're working on that winning attitude and the right mental attitude coming onto the court,” she said. “We've got a lot of talented kids on the court.”