Spartans defeat 5A Bear Creek for Golden Invite title

Berthoud preps for regionals on Nov. 1 at home

By Paula Megenhardt
The Surveyor

Berthoud setter, sophomore Jessa Megenhardt, jump sets against Bear Creek in the final at the  Golden Volleyball Invite on Oct. 25. Berthoud went undefeated and beat 5A Bear Creek for the title.  Photo courtesy of Dan Megenhardt / The Surveyor

Berthoud setter, sophomore Jessa Megenhardt, jump sets against Bear Creek in the final at the
Golden Volleyball Invite on Oct. 25. Berthoud went undefeated and beat 5A Bear Creek for the title.
Photo courtesy of Dan Megenhardt / The Surveyor

Strong efforts by every player led the Lady Spartans to win the Golden Invite on Oct. 25. Berthoud won each match cohesively and remarkably in two sets. The synergy between the players made for exceptional play, no matter the opponent, the team played its best. This has been a season where making it to regionals has not been in question.

“We were the better team in our pool,” said Berthoud head coach, Daisha Agho. “I knew that we needed to play well, as all teams improve throughout the season and the rankings can be deceiving. I told the girls coming into the tournament that this could easily solidify our chance to host or do the opposite if we aren’t focused.”

How Berthoud finished at the tournament determined that Berthoud will host regionals. Berthoud, No. 8 in 4A, will host No. 17, Durango, and No. 29, Mesa Ridge, for the Region 8 Tournament Bracket. Matches will be best of five sets. The Spartans play Mesa Ridge at 10 a.m. and Durango at 2 p.m.

In the championship match against Bear Creek, Agho called the first timeout as the Grizzlies bolted ahead of Berthoud, 5-0. The timeout iced the server, who put the ball in the net. Berthoud scored 11 of the next 14 points, to take an 11-8 lead. The Grizzlies clawed back to gain the lead at 15-12. Berthoud’s Jessa Megenhardt stopped the run of points with a second hit kill. Berthoud then tied it up at 15 behind Megenhardt’s serves. The teams traded points with ties at 18 and 21. At 21-all, senior Hannah Atkinson stepped up with two signature kills, a kill by senior Maddi White and a dump from setter Megenhardt finished the set, 25-21.

Atkinson continued her killing streak with three kills on the first four points of the final set. The set was neck-and-neck while Haley Hummel, nearly invulnerable the whole tournament, continued to defend her side along with Alyssa Peacock and Atkinson. Megenhardt pushed the sets around giving White, Peacock, Atkinson, Shaylee Pierick and Julie Ward opportunities for kills. At 16-16, Megenhardt broke the tie with a quick set to Atkinson who hit it against a late block from Bear Creek sending it out of bounds. Berthoud kept the lead through the set, the last few points including a back-row kill from Ward, a kill from Peacock, and a block by Atkinson, giving Berthoud the win, 25-21.

By dominating at the Golden Invite, it’s clear that the Lady Spartans have developed their mental toughness throughout the season.

“We didn’t let the little things bring us down. Volleyball is a game of mistakes, and we were able to find ways to force the other teams to make more than us. This was the best team effort I have seen all year,” said Agho. [The tournament win is a] “great confidence booster and gives us momentum leading into regionals. If we can keep our heads on and stay focused, this team will continue to accomplish great things.”

Berthoud volleyball has not seen a team of this caliber since 2008. Assistant coach, Mil Santo,s coached the 2008 team that went 26-3 on the season.

“Other than cohesiveness and chemistry between players and coaches, these girls excel in the most important playing field of all: the classroom. Just like all great teams of Berthoud High School,” Santos said. “As we prepare toward regionals, our mindset must be to stay together and raise our level of play on both sides of the ball and stay mentally tough.”

The Lady Spartans will have to play as they did at Golden to make it through regionals.

“Defense has definitely improved with an attitude of ‘relentless pursuit of the ball’ the last few weeks. It may be a cliché, but it is true that defense wins championships,” said Santos.

Atkinson had 38 kills, four blocks, and 30 digs for the tournament; Hummel maintains her number one standing in 4A for digs, adding 77 from the tournament and eight assists. Megenhardt, second in 4A for assists and assist/set, averaged 11.5 assists/set with 92 total, four kills, four blocks and 39 digs; Peacock had 16 kills, one block and 35 digs; Pierick had nine kills, five blocks and six digs; Ward had 20 kills, one block and 26 digs; and White had 18 kills, one block, an assist and 15 digs.

Berthoud hit the ground running at 8 a.m. against Summit High School at the Golden Invite. In the first set, Berthoud took the lead early, including a run of five points with Ward serving, prompting Summit to call a timeout when they were down 11-3.

Summit’s outside hitter, Emily Wallace, forced the Spartans to adjust their blocking when she had a couple effective kills. Berthoud’s Hummel and Megenhardt had tough digs as part of the effort to have fewer mistakes. Summit attempted to slow the Spartans’ momentum with another timeout at 19-8, but ultimately lost 25-13.

There’s no stopping a freight train, and this one was just warming up. Berthoud had a fast start at 5-0. The long rallies in this set gave the Spartans more to build on as they showed solid play all around. Atkinson, Ward and Pierick took turns slamming the ball down on the Tigers’ side, contributing to the win, 25-11, finishing the match.

Next up was the Littleton Lions. White put up strong blocks and put down crushing kills to push Berthoud to an 11-3 lead. White then had a six-point run serving while her teammates continued to be a force at the net. Ward had an amazing back-row kill, which put the Spartans ahead at 17-4. The Lions took their second timeout at 20-6, which was marginally successful by getting them a three-point run on the Spartans. Berthoud wrapped up the set at 25-9.

Littleton put on their game face and matched Berthoud point-for-point at the beginning, tying it at 5-5. Berthoud then took 9 of the next 11 points, taking a 14-7 lead. The Spartans continued honing their skills by putting together perfect plays and allowing the Lions only a handful of points. Megenhardt sealed the pool-play win with a final ace serve, ending the set at 25-11.

Berthoud began bracket play with their familiar rival, the Mead Mavericks. The Mavericks have bested Berthoud in both matches during the regular season. However, the Spartans were on fire and the Mavericks were not able to stomp it out.

Peacock led with excellent placement on her serves, setting up a 4-0 lead. After trading a few points, Ward had a serving run of four points. Sophomores Megenhardt and Pierick took the Mavericks off guard with second-touch dumps finding the floor on the Mavericks’ side. Ward had a beautiful roll-shot kill followed by an ace serve from Peacock, which put the score at 18-6, Spartans. Mead called their second timeout, attempting to re-group against the Spartans. Seniors Atkinson, White and Peacock took turns putting down hard kills on the Mavericks, ending the set at 25-13.

In the second set, the fervor at which the Mavericks and Spartans went at each other was palpable. The Mavericks had the lead, 12-17, when Berthoud pushed through with blocks and kills and then an ace serve by freshman Ward to tie the set at 17-17. She followed it up with a kill to an open spot on the Mavericks’ back line. Scoring remained close to the end. Kills by Peacock, Ward and Atkinson, along with Pierick’s blocking, brought Berthoud to the win over Mead, 25-22.

“I know how badly the girls wanted to beat them [Mead] and I prepped them during the week that playing them in the semi round was a strong possibility,” Agho said. “We were more hungry for the win and had the tournament title in the back of our minds.”