COLORADO SPRINGS — There are a bunch of people around the state that had written the Holy Family Tigers off midway through the season.
Rightfully so, when they were a dismal 5-10.
Really the only ones that didn’t were in the Tigers locker room.
They fought their way back into relevance by winning seven of their final eight matches to get into the top 36 teams and earned a trip to Colorado Springs and the Class 4A Region 6 tournament at Coronado.
After dispatching No. 31 The Classical Academy in their first match, it set up a winner-take-all match against No. 6 Coronado for the right to go to the Denver Coliseum and play in the what we be an improbable fourth straight state tournament for this group of seniors.
The Tigers tied the championship match with the Cougars 1-1, but couldn’t sustain any sort of momentum against a Coronado team that had a plethora of lengthy weapons all over the court. Coronado will return to that state tournament after a 25-16, 22-25, 25-22, 25-15 victory over the Tigers.
“We just haven’t been 100 percent all week, and we didn’t not have a single practice with everybody there,” Tigers head coach Krista Solomon said. “That is how championship volleyball is won, by playing the best you can everyday no matter if you are full strength or not.”
After a big rally in Game 2 that saw the Tigers finish on a 7-3 run to close out the Cougars and tie the match, it would have been easy to say momentum was clearly on their side. But the Tigers, who had played Coronado during the club season and were aware of what they were capable of, knew it was going to take a flawless effort to beat them.
They started the crucial third set with a a multitude of errors and before they could blink, found themselves down 9-2.
“We told them, we’ve got to get another set and we do make this interesting,” Solomon said. “They came out and fought hard and I think they knew we could win it. But they went on runs and that is when we started to struggle, especially with confidence.”
The Tigers were down 21-12 in the rubber game, when they decided to make their run. A 10-2 run cut the lead 23-22, but the Cougars regrouped and were able to close out the set.
The Cougars trailed 10-8 in the final game, but behind the powerful play of seniors Caroline Risenhoover, Amara Austin and juniors Maycie Rogers and Stacia Smith went on an impressive 17-5 to close out the Tigers.
The best player on the court on Saturday for Holy Family was senior Bianca Eldridge. She was all over the court, making crucial digs in the back to keep points alive and was the primary hitter all day long.
“If you are going to finish as a senior, I don’t think you can finish any better than she did,” Solomon said. “She stepped up for us and we needed her and I could not have asked for more from her.”