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By Jocelyn Rowley

Volleyball: Cougars capture regional title, earn berth in 4A state tournament


November 15, 2016

Photo by Ed Navarro Niwot’s Rachel Priola digs the ball as Ashley Bradbury looks on in regional action.

With green rally towels in hand, Niwot fans packed their home gym last Friday night to see the 11th ranked Cougars vie for a state tournament slot against No. 14 Battle Mountain and No. 26 Littleton in the Class 4A Region 11 tournament.

Niwot came into the tournament losers of its last five matches, including a shutout at the Ponderosa Mustang Classic, a season-end tournament featuring Class 4A and 5A teams from the south Denver metro area. But Coach Preston Brown said he wasn’t too concerned about his team’s resilience.

“By design, we schedule tougher tournaments,” he said. “We set ourselves up to see tougher competition because that’s how we get better. We underperformed [at Ponderosa], but it helped us.”

Indeed. The Cougars cruised to straight set victories over both opponents, capturing the Region 11 title and earning their first state tournament berth since 2014.

Brown was thrilled with his team’s performance on the night, calling it the best of the season so far.

“The girls played awesomely,” he said. “It’s hard to see an area where they need to improve.”

The Cougars dominated on offense and defense, and, once again, it was their big middle hitters with the gaudy stats. Junior Mackenzie Fidelak led her team on the attack with a total of 30 kills. She also had seven blocks on the night, just behind sophomore Zoe Gonzales who had eight. Sisters Sarah and Emma Falk combined for another 30 kills, and each had four aces on the night. Emma Falk also had six blocks, including four in the match against Battle Mountain.

Senior Brynn Chavez had three aces, nine digs and a kill. Sophomore libero Ashley Bradbury had 19 digs in the match with Battle Mountain, and added another five against Littleton. Freshman Emma Shiers had eight kills and three digs through both games.

There were also some new faces on the Niwot roster. Setter Katie Hirsh made her varsity debut in the game against Battle Mountain when she entered the game for Chavez late in the third set. Hirsh had an ace and an assist in the match.

Up next for the Cougars is the 4A state tournament at the Denver Coliseum on Nov. 11-12. Niwot is seeded 11th, and will be pooled in the first round with No. 2 Eagle Valley and No. 7 Holy Family, the team that snapped Niwot’s 12-game winning streak earlier this season. Coach Brown thinks his team will be looking forward to the rematch.

“We took them to five last year at regionals, and came up a little short. We took them to five at home ten days ago, and came up a little short. Certainly there’s going to be some motivation there to prove ourselves. It should be a great match.”

Brown doesn’t expect to make any further changes to his roster before the state tournament, and, preparation-wise, won’t be making any dramatic changes to his routine.

“We’ll continue to work on the fundamentals, and make sure we’re focusing on the details,” he explained. “We want to make sure we’re physically ready and mentally ready, which I’m sure the kids will be.”

Brown stopped short of making a prediction for his team in the tournament, but did say he expects every team to bring their best.

“Lewis-Palmer is the team to beat. They’re the number one seed,” he said. “But we tell our kids that anything can happen on any given day, so we have to be prepared. We’re looking forward to being at state. If we play the way we did [at regionals], we should do well.”

Niwot 3, Littleton 0

Littleton 15, 13, 12

Niwot 25, 25, 25

Kills — Mackenzie Fidelak 13, Sarah Falk 9, Emma Falk 7, Emma Shiers 4, Zoe Gonzales 1, Brynn Chavez 1, Ashley Bradbury 1

Blocks — Zoe Gonzales 4, Mackenzie Fidelak 3, Emma Falk 2

Digs — Ashley Bradbury 5, Mackenize Fidelak 3, Brynn Chavez 3, Audrey Richard 2, Emma Falk 1, Rachel Priola 1, Courtney Smoljan 1

Aces — Sarah Falk 4, Emma Falk 2, Courtney Smoljan 1

Niwot 3, Battle Mountain 0

Battle Mountain 15, 14, 17

Niwot 25, 25, 25

Kills — Mackenize Fidelak 17, Sarah Falk 7, Emma Falk 7, Emma Shiers 4, Zoe Gonzales 2

Blocks — Emma Falk 4, Mackenzie Fidelak 4, Zoe Gonzales 4, Sarah Falk 3, Audrey Richard 1

Digs — Ashley Bradbury 19, Brynn Chavez 6, Rachel Priola 6, Mackenize Fidelak 5, Audrey Richard 5, Sarah Falk 4, Emma Shiers 3, Emma Falk 2, Courtney Smoljan

Aces — Brynn Chavez 3, Emma Falk 2, Audrey Richard 2, Mackenzie Fidelak 1


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