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La Veta travels to 1A state tourney

Lady Redhawks earn wildcard berth; They’ll face Dove Creek this morning in rematch of Regionals

With help coming from teammate Mattie Bjorum, La Veta sophomore Grace D’Esposito blocks Westminster Flatirons Academy’s Katelynn Coulter during 1A-Region 8 action last Saturday.  LVHS defeated FA, setting up a championship showdown against tournament host Dove Creek. Photo by Joel Priest

by Mark Craddock
DENVER — By the time circulation staff has delivered this newspaper throughout Our World, the La Veta Lady Redhawks will be deep in the throes of early competition in the Colorado 1A volleyball tournament.

And by any measure, it is going to be a rough day for the Lady Redhawks at the Denver Coliseum.

At 8 a.m. today, La Veta began its quest for the state championship with a rematch of sorts, facing a Dove Creek team which beat La Veta in last Saturday’s regionals. But the Saturday match was close. Dove Creek is beatable.

A loss to Dove Creek would push La Veta into the elimination bracket, with an 11 a.m. Friday match against the loser of the Simla-Otis opening match.

But if La Veta wins its opening match, the ninth-ranked Redhawks will face Colorado’s top-ranked 1A team, the Merino Rams, at 2 p.m. Thursday.

Should the Lady Redhawks manage to upset Merino, La Veta would continue competition in the winners bracket on Friday, most likely against number-four-ranked Fleming.

Beyond that, the tournament bracket becomes too much a miasma of “ifs” and “buts” to make any predictions, except that most schools will be going home on Friday.

But the goal is crystal clear, as it has been since the first serve of the first set of the first match of the 2022 season:  a berth in the championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday.

How they got here:
The season
La Veta’s 2022 schedule was strategically aimed at boosting the team’s Rating Percentage Index (RPI), a measure not only of wins and losses, but of the caliber of opponents. It is a critical metric in determining seeding for post-season play.
The Lady Redhawks spent the season barnstorming through southern Colorado’s 1A ranks, primarily playing against the strongest possible non-league opponents, racking up an impressive 22-1 record along the way. The team’s only regular-season loss came Sept. 24, in a 3-1 shootout with Simla.  La Veta played only two league matches, beating Primero and Manzanola.
Along the way, several team members finished the season among the top players  in the state, with Senior Redhawk Kendyl Eddleman leading the way. The 5-foot-11 senior  finished 14th in the state in kills and 16th in hitting percentage.
Among 1A players, Eddleman, finished in third in hitting percentage and fifth in kills, with 354 on the season. Teammate Mattie Bjorum, a junior, finished 15th in the 1A ranks in hitting percentage and senior setter Maddie Nix finished 12th in assists with 454.

La Veta ended its season ranked number-one in the 1A Fishers Peak League and number-four statewide. But the post-season seeding is based on a combination of CHSAA ranking, RPI and Maxpreps rankings. And the level of competition among many north-state teams boosted their RPI indices above La Veta’s.

When the numbers were crunched, La Veta came out in a four-way tie for seventh seed  — and earned an inevitable 280-mile bus ride over two mountain passes to fight for a spot in the Nov. 10 state tournament.

How they got here:
The Region 8 Tourney
The Region 8 round-robin essentially went exactly as statistics and rankings predicted, with undefeated Dove Creek finishing on top, La Veta in second and Westminster Flatirons Academy third.

La Veta first took on Flatirons and, in spite of defensive struggles that seemed to typify the Lady Redhawks’ day, won in a tight three-set match, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19. The Redhawks’ front line held strong throughout, with Eddleman racking up 29 kills and Bjorum adding another 10.

La Veta then took on host Dove Creek, which had already dispatched Flatirons in a tight three-set match.
Eddleman, Bjorum, Nix, Tallie Noordik and Marianna Delacruz collectively racked up 20 kills.
In all other classes of girls volleyball, only the top regional finishers earned a state tourney berth. But in 1A, the four non-winning teams with the best season rankings went to state as wildcards, which is how La Veta earned its spot.
Flatirons 21 17 19 0
La Veta 25 25 25 3

La Veta 17 19 18 0
Dove Creek 25 25 25 3