Lady Spartans fall to Lewis-Palmer, best Windsor at State Volleyball

Berthoud’s Sophie Kathol goes up for a block with the help of teammate Shay Pierick during the first round contest against No. 1 seed Lewis-Palmer at the Denver Coliseum on Nov. 11. The Spartans lost the contest 3-0, and it was the second year in a row that they drew No. 1 seed in the 4A state volleyball tournament. Paula Megenhardt / The Surveyor

Berthoud’s Sophie Kathol goes up for a block with the help of teammate Shay Pierick during the first round contest against No. 1 seed Lewis-Palmer at the Denver Coliseum on Nov. 11. The Spartans lost the contest 3-0, and it was the second year in a row that they drew No. 1 seed in the 4A state volleyball tournament.
Paula Megenhardt / The Surveyor

By Dan Karpiel
The Surveyor

At the end of every season, in every sport, at every level, there is only going to be one team that is truly satisfied.

Last Friday afternoon at the state tournament at the Denver Coliseum, the Berthoud High School volleyball team fell in straight sets 3-0 (25-12, 25-8, 25-18) to a Lewis-Palmer squad that went on to sweep Pueblo West and Holy Family to win their third 4A state championship in four years. The following morning, Berthoud swept archrival Windsor 3-0 (25-19, 25-16, 26-24) in a match that, on paper, was for nothing more than pride, but was one that meant a great deal to the Lady Spartans.

In facing Lewis-Palmer, who knocked out Berthoud at state in 2014, the Lady Spartans knew the margin for error would be razor-thin. And Palmer demonstrated early on why they were an undefeated, first-ranked team.

On the opening serve, Berthoud took a 1-0 lead on a Palmer attack error, but a subsequent attack error on Berthoud’s part gave the serve to their opponents, who quickly rattled off 11 consecutive points −five coming on aces from Palmer senior outside Lydia Bartalo − to take a commanding lead from which they would never look back.

Berthoud struggled with their serve-receive against Lewis-Palmer, an aspect of the game of which the lady Spartans felt they did not adequately prepare. As senior setter Jessa Megenhardt explained, “We were expecting a tougher offense from them, not a tough serve, so I think that knocked us off our game a little bit … I think we focused too much on defense and we didn’t do enough on serve-receive because we were really unprepared there.”

The lady Rangers rattled off rallies of 11, five, six and eight in the first two sets, largely on account of their serve, taking commanding leads from which Berthoud was unable to recover. Palmer finished the three sets with 14 aces and Berthoud with 15 serve-receive errors, stats that told the story of the match.

“Our serve-receive wasn’t on point today,” Berthoud head coach Daisha Agho explained. “We’re usually a little better in serve-receive and tonight they definitely nailed us on that one.”

The Berthoud Spartans volleyball team gets a pep-talk from head coach Daisha Agho during the contest with Lewis-Palmer in the first round of the 4A state volleyball tournament on Nov. 11 at the Denver Coliseum. Paula Megenhardt / The Surveyor

The Berthoud Spartans volleyball team gets a pep-talk from head coach Daisha Agho during the contest with Lewis-Palmer in the first round of the 4A state volleyball tournament on Nov. 11 at the Denver Coliseum.
Paula Megenhardt / The Surveyor

Berthoud, who appeared tight in the first two sets, settled in in the third. Kills from star outside Julie Ward, another from freshman middle Teagan Holmes, and an ace from senior Shay Pierick helped Berthoud build a 5-3 lead. The teams traded points back and forth until a late rally by the lady Rangers turned an 18-17 Palmer lead into a 25-18 victory.

“We adjusted mentally, we knew this was our last chance, and we had to leave it all on the line,” Megenhardt said when asked about Berthoud’s resilient play in the third set.

Was Berthoud tight in the first two sets? “Absolutely,” Agho answered, adding that the difference in the final set was due to relaxation.

“It was them being able to calm down,” she said. “It was a pride issue at that point. I told them ‘you’ve got nothing to lose, never have, so what’s the point of sitting here and letting them steamroll you?”

The following morning the lady Spartans took the court against Windsor, who had also been defeated by Lewis-Palmer the day prior. The for-pride match between the pair of Tri-Valley Conference adversaries ended with a Berthoud victory, their third win of the year over one of their fiercest rivals.

Berthoud won with a sweep that marked the lady Spartans’ first win in a state match in their three-straight appearances in the tournament. The fact the win came against Windsor was not lost on Agho or the players.

“I think it was a big deal for us to play Windsor, because we beat them twice in conference and we wanted to be able to beat them and win our first game at state in the three years we’ve gone,” said Pierick.

Berthoud, playing with an air of confidence and poise that was absent in the match with Lewis-Palmer, jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. The Lady Spartans took the first set comfortably, holding off a late-match push from Windsor. In the second, Berthoud’s serve did damage as aces from Ward, Pierick and Trinity Penny were key in extending scoring rallies.

The Lady Spartans opened the third set on a 9-1 run, with Pierick serving, but Windsor countered late, refusing to go down without a fight. Facing match point at 24-14 after a kill from Ward, the lady Wizards scored 10-straight to knot the match at 24. A kill from Holmes ended the Windsor rally and was followed by an error on Berthoud’s ensuing serve, giving the Spartans the set- and match-clinching 26th point.

“Of course,” Agho said, when asked if the match had any extra significance given the opponent. “They’re always fun to play, they’re always competitive, we’ve already beat them twice, they’re going to be gunning for us.

“It’s a pride thing,” Agho said. “You’re playing with heart. You’re playing with this team for the last time, this group will never be together again, it’s emotional sure but it’s special too.”

Berthoud finished the year with a 21-6 overall record, won their third-consecutive regional championship and got their first win at state. While Megenhardt, Pierick and libero Sarah Howard will all be lost to graduation, Berthoud will return a core next year led by Ward, one of the state’s premier players, as well as Kailey Berry and four – Holmes, Penny, Cas Berry and Sophie Kathol − who earned their stripes this season as freshman.

“I think we had a really successful season,” said Holmes. “We worked really hard to get where we were.”