Volleyball

James Irwin volleyball ends historic season in state quarterfinals

James Irwin volleyball ends historic season in state quarterfinals

The first CHSAA-sanctioned boys’ volleyball tournament has been a long time coming for Mike Prusinowski and the James Irwin boys’ volleyball program.

For the last 11 years, Prusinowski has been building a powerhouse program within the walls of the small 404-student school, quietly building a reputation among the club volleyball scene, lying in wait for the opportunity to dominate on the state level.

In their first-ever CHSAA-sanctioned season, James Irwin went 14-2, going undefeated on their home court and ending the regular season on a 29-set winning streak.

The No. 4 Jaguars’ season came to an end Friday in a state quarterfinal loss to No. 5 Eaglecrest in an intense five-set battle against the Raptors.

James Irwin won the first set 28-26, working to shake Eaglecrest in the back-and forth battle where the Raptors would come from behind again and again, never letting James Irwin earn a comfortable lead. Eaglecrest went on to win Set 2 25-26 before the Jaguars took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-17 win in the third set.

James Irwin jumped out early in the fifth set, taking an 11-7 lead off a four-point run, but an Eaglecrest timeout got the Raptors back in position and went on an 8-2 run to close out the final frame with a 15-13 victory to move on to the state semifinals.

“We didn’t have one or two standout players, everyone on this team is so good it made it so enjoyable to play, and so enjoyable to be a family with them and fight through these long games it was enjoyable,” said junior Josh Livergood. “Even though it was a disappointing outcome, we still left everything on the court and there’s not much more you can ask for.”

Livergood attends Pine Creek but joined James Irwin when District 20 declined to field a boys’ volleyball team this year.

They opened their arms and were able to give me a home and give me a place to play,” Livergood said.

In fact, James Irwin features athletes from seven different high schools around the Colorado Springs area, cultivating a melting pot of talent.

“All of their players were willing to teach us the Jaguar way. Everyone who came in from different schools they were so willing to play a different way than they maybe have in the past,” Livergood added.

“You would never know that from the day we stepped into the gym,” Prusinowski said of the abundance of athletes he collected from across the city. “They bought into James Irwin and what we wanted to do. The culture at James Irwin is a lot about character first, and the guys that came in didn’t waiver from what we expected from our kids and it just built on what we’ve had the last several years.”

Since 2015, Prusinowski said his program has accumulated an 87-17 record, jumping into the first sanctioned season with high expectations for its athletes.

“In 3A we’ve been known to have a good team (before sanctioning), but on the state level we probably surprised a lot of people,” Prusinowski said.

Five of James Irwin’s top six contributors will return next year, setting up another run now that the Jaguars got a taste for the state tournament.

“Going into next year my senior season, I want to win this,” Livergood said. “Next year we are going to have one of the top teams and next year I’m going to want this even more.

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