Aspen volleyball returns to postseason prepared for pair of Front Range tests
The only way for the Aspen High School volleyball team to back up the hype surrounding its 6-0 start to the season was to make the postseason, something it hadn’t done since playing in a district tournament in 2011.
Friday in Arvada, that postseason drought officially comes to an end.
“After our first few games there was a lot of buzz about us making the postseason,” first-year AHS head coach Bailey Holmes said. “For these girls to actually make it and be able to play with the Front Range teams and have a shot at it is really cool.”
Aspen (13-6 overall) was awarded the No. 34 seed in the 36-team Class 3A regional and will play Friday in Region 3, hosted by No. 3 seed Faith Christian (18-5). No. 22 seed Rye (13-10) is the other team in the three-team pod.
One of the three teams will advance to the 12-team state tournament Nov. 10 and 11 in Denver.
“It’s pretty awesome to finally get to go senior year. I’m pretty excited,” AHS senior Maddy Bergdahl said. “We have a challenge ahead for us, but I feel very confident we can cause an upset and maybe make it to the next round.”
On paper, Rye — located south of Pueblo — looks evenly matched with Aspen. The Thunderbolts also started the season 6-0 before limping to a sixth-place finish in the deep 3A Tri-Peaks League, won by Buena Vista, a regional No. 14 seed.
Rye has reached 20 wins twice since 2012, including a 22-4 season in 2015 when it made the Class 2A state tournament. Rye’s 13 wins this season are the lowest since also winning 13 in 2009.
Faith Christian’s 18 wins are the most since hitting that same mark in 2014. The Eagles finished second in the 3A Metro League behind only Lutheran (20-3), a regional No. 2 seed. Faith Christian has one state championship in school history, winning 3A in 1995.
“It’s going to be a good experience to play against really highly-ranked teams in the state and see how we come together as a team,” AHS junior Mary Williams said. “It helps us a lot because we want to be like that and it makes us want to work harder and to see teams like that inspires us to be better.”
While Aspen will be given its shot against Faith Christian and Rye for a spot in the state tournament, it also realizes the odds might be better a year from now. The Skiers are heavy on juniors this season, and Friday’s matches will provide them with invaluable experience heading into their senior seasons.
“This kind of sets the stage for what next year is going to look like,” Holmes said. “Instead of getting to the postseason next year and kind of being in shock with what these Front Range teams can do, they’ll know what’s coming and I think that will be really beneficial to them.”
Aspen’s regional tournament begins at 4 p.m. Friday when it plays host Faith Christian. AHS then plays Rye at 5:30 p.m. before Faith Christian and Rye play at 7 p.m.
“This year is a year for us to kind of make a mark and raise the level and standards for upcoming years,” Bergdahl said. “I’m really jealous, honestly, that they have another year for it. I feel that next year will be even better than this year and I hope the years to come after that can be even better.”
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