Delta High School volleyball coach Beth Nelson was more than happy with the way seeding worked out after last weekend's Region 10 qualifying play in Colorado Springs. The Panthers, had they hosted a regional, may not have drawn an equally favorable pair of opponents they faced at St. Mary's High School in Arvada last Friday.
The Panthers, No. 15, were in regional play with No. 27 Kent Denver and No. 10 St. Mary's. "That worked out better than we could have hoped for. I'm very pleased with the draw we had here (Friday, Nov. 4)," quoted Nelson.
Delta 3, Kent Denver 1
Delta had a rough first match with Kent Denver (15-10). The Panthers won the first set 25-22, and then struggled with a 21-25 loss in set two before finishing the match with wins of 25-16 and 25-23.
The Panthers started the first set with a 3-1 lead after Harlee Roberts' service had ended.
The set was tied eight times before Shelbi Ledesma served four times for a 22-19 lead for the Panthers. Lexi Quinn pushed Delta's lead to 24-22 and Kent Denver lost the serve, and the match, 22-25.
In set two, Delta ran the score to 3-1 once again to start the set and Kent Denver battled back to tie the set at 3-3, and then lost the lead on Natalie Watkins' third serve.
The score was tied eight times before Mallory Garner gave the Sundevils a 23-20 lead late in the set. Andrea Qualman served the final point for a 25-21 win for Kent Denver.
Delta ran to a 3-1 lead, again, in set three. This time the Panthers kept the Sundevils at bay and stretched their lead to 23-14 off the service of Quinn. The Panthers scored the winner off Qualman's service for a 25-16 win and a 2-1 lead.
The Sundevils, needing a win, stepped up their game in set four to take an 8-4 lead early. Delta battled back and took a 12-10 lead off the service of Makayla Mills.
Kent Denver tied the set at 15-15 on Watkins' service but fell behind 15-16 on her final service attempt.
Chloe Richards' service tied the set at 18-18 and the two teams would see four more ties before the Panthers served out on Quinn's final service of the set, 25-23.
Emily Baier was a force at the net with 18 kills. Dani Sakal added 11 kills and Quinn had another 10.
Chloe Richards had 11 kills to pace the Sundevils.
Delta had five players with double digit digs, including Mills (18), Baier (17), Ledesma (16), Quinn (14) and Roberts (12). Kent Denver had three double digit diggers, including Mary Kate Highum (27), Mallory Garner (22) and Qualman (10).
Assists leaders for both teams included Delta's Emily Nortnik (41) and Kent Denver's Garner (34).
Delta 3, St. Mary's 1
Delta anticipated a rigorous match against the No. 10 seeded St. Mary's team. The Pirates had defeated Kent Denver 3-0 earlier in the afternoon.
The two teams battled evenly through the first 11 service rotations. On the 12th service, Delta's Quinn stretched the Panthers' lead to 15-12 before giving way to the next St. Mary's service.
The Pirates lost a point, 12-16, and Roberts went to work for seven points and a 23-13 lead before relinquishing the service. Nortnik finished the set with the final point in a 25-23 win.
Set two started out to be a similar pattern as in set one, with the Panthers jumping out to an 11-7 lead.
St. Mary's retaliated to shave Delta's lead to 12-10 before the wheels began coming off. Quinn's service provided Delta with a 19-12 lead and the Panthers had to withstand a furious rally from the Pirates who got as close as 23-24 before bowing 25-23.
As in their match against Kent Denver, the Panthers looked, and played, fatigued. Delta fell behind 9-19 late in the third set, and eventually lost the set 25-12.
Delta seemed to go back to basics in the fourth set and were all business as it methodically gained a 12-5 lead.
Quinn, again, triggered a big scoring stretch where she held service for a 17-8 lead. The Panthers got two points on Mills' service to end the match with a 25-11 fourth set win, and a 3-1 match victory.
Baier was, once again, devastating at the net with 23 kills for the Panthers.
Delta had six players with double digit digs, including Ledesma (22), Roberts and Quinn (20 each), Nortnik (13) and Baier and Mills (11 each). Emily Broerman had 30 digs for the Pirates with Taralyn Sweeney recording 19, Jackie Delfield 13 and Sarah Walraven adding 10.
Nortnik finished with 31 assists for the Panthers and St. Mary's Sweeney had 36.
After the final point had been scored and the players, parents and fans were celebrating a second straight trip to state competition, coach Beth Nelson heaved a sigh of relief. The Panthers did what they needed to do to get by Kent Denver and it wasn't always pretty.
The Region 10 title game seemed way too easy with two set wins for a 2-0 lead. That third set was something else. "Yes, I was nervous. We had played so well in the first two sets and ran out of steam in the third set to let them (St. Mary's) back in it. We played well in the fourth set to get the win," stated Nelson.
No. 10 Delta is in the 3A field for this weekend's state championships at the Denver Coliseum. The Panthers will play, first, in Pool 3, and face No. 3 Colorado Springs Christian (21-2) to begin their quest for a volleyball title. Delta's game is on Friday, Nov. 11, and begins approximately at noon.
The Panthers' next match is scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 12, at the same starting time as Friday (noon) against No. 6 Resurrection Christian (17-6).
All Pool play is to have concluded by noon Saturday with Pool winners advancing to semifinal round play Saturday afternoon. The 3A Championship contest is set to begin at 7 p.m. Saturday evening at the Denver Coliseum.