The Delta High School girls' volleyball team finished a strong season and showed that there's more to come from this talented group of Panthers.
On the second day of action at the Denver Coliseum, Delta beat a tough Silver Creek team in four sets 25-23, 19-25, 25-16, 25-19 and finished the Panthers' first trip to the state championship tournament in style.
"I think we had better defense," Delta coach Beth Nelson said about the key to the win. "I think we did a better job today of taking care of the ball, limiting our errors, and just playing our game and not trying to do too much."
In the first set win, Delta's sensational junior hitter Emily Baier banged home a kill that put the Panthers in front 19-17. Emily Nortnik's block kept the Panthers in front 22-21, then Ashton Reese finished off the win with her kill.
Reese led the way early in the third set when her kill put Delta in front 7-6. Dani Sakala's tip over the net made it 14-8 and forced a Silver Creek timeout.
Nortnik's ace and another kill from Baier made it 18-11, then Reese continued her strong tournament performance with a kill and an ace. Sakala tipped over another point and Delta secured the set.
The fourth-set victory featured Delta's Makayla Mills firing a couple aces from the serving line and Reese and Baier booming in more kills from the outside as the Panthers earned a split in their two matches at the state tournament.
"I think overall we're very pleased to split. We're happy with that. I was bummed a little bit about our seed but we're excited to be here," Nelson said. "We've never been here before, so for our first time to come here and split, that's great. Hopefully this leaves a taste in the girls' mouths and they all want to get back here."
Delta fell to eventual 4A state champion Cheyenne Mountain in straight sets 16-25, 9-25, 21-25 on Friday afternoon in the first match of pool play.
With the graduation of only three seniors (Shanan Davey, Jade Mahaffey and Tylor Redden) Nelson hopes the Panthers, who will compete in 3A, will be back in Denver next November.
"We brought as many kids as we could. We had three freshmen on the bench just so they could be here and experience it," Nelson said. "It was just a great weekend for our program."
Enhancing the thought of next year is the fact Delta will no longer be at the lower end of its class-ification and should be very competitive in the various sports programs.