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Niwot girls volleyball off to strong start

Niwot girls volleyball coach Tony Engel was pleased with how his team came out of the gate to start the season, winning a 3-set match against Silver Creek High School Sept. 5. The team's season opener was one of the latest in Colorado as Silver Creek and many other teams started the season as early as Aug. 17.

"We came out a little nervous," Engel said. "We didn't play our game. We were a little over excited. We kind of settled down and we figured out what Niwot volleyball was," Coach Engel said. The Cougars and Raptors battled back and forth until late in the first game before Niwot pulled away to win 25-20.

At that point the Cougars proceeded to win handily, 25-7, and 25-11, to close out the match.

The team has had a considerable turnover since last season. "We've got five of seven new starters, Addison [Engel] and Anne Haley, our setter, floor general," Coach Engel said. "We came out of game one feeling pretty confident about ourselves. This team is a very strong serving team, we put a lot of pressure on them serving, and it showed. Both Lizzy [Kaus] and Addison had strong matches. We had nice plays on the outside from both Jade West and Bella Berger."

Berger led the team in kill percentage at 69.2% with Engel close behind at 66.7%. Coach Engel also tracks service errors, "If we're gonna miss, we're gonna miss long," he said. Then they [opponents] have to make a decision."

The Cougars use a 7-player rotation, which also includes seniors Sami Sessa, and Julia Dadey. Sophomore Elise Arends and junior Brooke Caquelin also saw action. "We've got four or five freshmen on JV, and I've got four sophomores on varsity," Engel said. "Two of them will play and the other two will be more in the rotation - one is the backup setter."

"I decided to keep 14 kids [on varsity], including a couple of seniors who had been dedicated to the program," Engel said. "We end up with great practices and they're quality contributors. We had a program sweep Silver Creek, at all four levels. We only dropped one set out of the four matches. That was at the C team level, and we took care of business when they settled down."

On Sept. 9, the Cougars traveled to Lewis-Palmer for a tournament. In pool play, the Cougars easily handled Class 3A Bayfield High School, 25-15 and 25-12, in two sets.

Loveland posed more of a challenge, but Niwot prevailed in two hard-fought overtime matches, 26-24 and 28-26. That put the Cougars up against host Lewis-Palmer High School, which Engel described as "a very quality program." There, Niwot finally met its match, losing both games, 25-17 and 25-11.

The Cougars then played Windsor High School, losing the first game 25-17 before coming back to win the second game, 25-20. That set up the rubber game, in which Windsor prevailed, 15-11.

The Cougars get another shot at Windsor (9-1) at home on Sept. 14.


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