The 2018 Cedaredge High School volleyball team was dynamite for a team boasting one senior. The Bruins cruised through the 2018 campaign and led the 3A WSL in wins for an early portion of the season and finished second (8-1) behind Coal Ridge, which finished with a 9-0 league mark.
Cedaredge, hosting the Region 9 regional tournament, had little trouble with No. 28 DSST: College View, winning in three sets, 25-15, 25-14 and 25-16 in first round action.
The Bruins had the second round game off with No. 16 Resurrection Christian (12-11) facing DSST: College View. The Cougars dispatched DSST in three sets 25-7, 25-23 and 25-20, to enter the regional title match against Cedaredge.
Resurrection Christian, despite its paultry 13-11 record, played like a seasoned unit against the Bruins in the title match and found enough reserve to win a five-set thriller, 3-2; 22-25, 25-18, 25-23, 24-26 and 15-12.
Cedaredge's start against DSST included a 6-0 service stint from sophomore Kammie Henderson. The Bruins' lead grew to 10 points on the service of junior Makayla Kehmeier who served for a 15-5 Cedaredge lead before giving up the service. The closest the Wolves could get after that was four points (17-13).
Junior Reganne McIntire took Cedaredge's lead to 24-15 on her service rotation and a kill shot from senior Courtney Freeman ended the set on College View's service for a 25-15 win.
A 5-1 run from Henderson greeted the Wolves in set two with a similar difference of points as in the opening set. DSST could not get any closer than eight points from mid-point on with Cedaredge winning the set 25-14.
The Wolves and Bruins were in a scrap for the early going of set three with scores remaining close until Freeman's turn at service starting with an 18-13 lead. By the time Freeman had finished, the Bruins were in command at 22-14. Cedaredge went on to score a 25-16 win.
Henderson paced the Bruins service performance with six aces in the match and hammered eight kills and collected 12 digs.
Freeman's .692 hitting percentage provided Cedaredge with 19 kills on 26 attempts. She also had an assist, one ace with seven serve receptions and 10 digs for the Bruins.
Other statistic leaders for Cedaredge included Kehmeier with five kills and eight service receptions and Paige McGovern with seven service receptions and 12 digs.
In the title game for Region 9, there was no clear-cut feel for who the winning team might be in either of the five sets played. Both teams were honed for the match and net play and hard services were the norm.
From the mid-point on of set one, a two-point lead for either team was an excitable event. There were only two, three-point leads in the set with the last one coming on the sets' final service by Resurrection Christian and a 25-22 win.
Anyone expecting a difference in scoring in set two must not have seen set one. Resurrection Christian built a four-point lead (8-4) early with the set tied at 10-10 and 11-11 after 16 service rotations.
The Bruins trailed 18-21 when Resurrection Christian's libero, Megan McDaniel, began her service rotation. The senior served four straight winners to win the set 25-18.
With a state berth on the line, both teams were playing with poise and determination, with unimagined tension failing to deter from the play of either team in set three. If one could script the play in a match to keep everyone in the gym on the edge of their seats, the style and intensity of play exhibited by both teams would have represented that scenario.
Set three was another closely contested match where the point separation between teams was no greater than three points at any time during the set. The Cougars put the set away on their final service to win a 25-23 decision to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Play in the fourth set was a mirror of the scoring effort from the matches beginning. Another closely contested battle went down to the wire with Cedaredge's Kehmeier serving the final point in a 26-24 win.
There were anxious moments for Cedaredge fans in the final set when Resurrection Christian took a 9-5 lead. As in the previous sets, the trailing team bounced back to tie the set. This time, fate was against the Bruins with a service error costing Cedaredge a point for a 12-14 deficit. The Cougars scored the winning point on senior Bryce Lienemann's service.
Freeman was once again the leading attack player for the Bruins with a 15-kill match and a sparkling .208 hitting percentage. The senior standout also contributed 16 of 19 successful service receptions and had 21 digs.
Kehmeier's match included 12 kills (.186 hitting percentage), 16 of 16 successful service receptions and 15 digs.
Henderson had another stellar match with seven kills, an assist, an ace, a 35 for 37 successful serve reception game and 20 digs.
Hannah Carlson was also active for Cedaredge with nine kills, an assist, an ace, six for six service receptions and 15 digs.
Though the Bruins were defeated in the match, a true volleyball fan would have to agree they had just witnessed a great match between two evenly matched teams.
Cedaredge coach Heather Dunbar was saddened by the loss and failure to advance to the next round of volleyball playoffs, but there was also a beaming pride and shine to the final words she had to offer about her team's play.
"That really was an amazing game. Those last two points will forever haunt me and it will take a while to get over that one. That game (Resurrection Christian) was truly what is good in sports ... kids putting it all in and playing for each other." Going on, Dunbar expressed her emotions for the team. "I am beyond proud of these kids. I am proud of their heart and for battling the entire game! Volleyball is such a momentum game and these kids really kept their heads and energy the entire game. I am proud of CHS for the way we represented our little town and the Western Slope on Saturday. They (players) are the cream of the crop as humans and it really makes it super fun and easy to walk in that gym every day."
Dunbar had two points to emphasize about the season. The first point was the respect and admiration she, and the team, has for senior Courtney Freeman. "There aren't quite enough words for me to express the absolute will power, positive attitude and belief that Courtney Freeman pumps into this team. She is a coach on the floor and truly listens and understands the game."
Dunbar's second point was the fact that there were only two players on the floor that had extensive varsity experience when the season started. "What we lacked in experience they doubled with love for the game and playing with each other."