Coach Katie Benson knew it would be a tough assignment going up against two-time defending champion Pahranagat Valley in the semifinals of the 1A state tournament in Reno Nov. 9.
The Panthers took the match 3-0. Scores were 25-23, 25-13, 25-20.
“We had some really great blocking, but also made some mistakes on defense. But in general the girls played tough,” she said.
Eureka began by employing a double-blocking strategy to hopefully offset Pahranagat’s two strong outside hitters, senior cousins Morgan Harris and Hannah Castleton. “We worked pretty well at times,” she said.
But Pahranagat made some adjustments and rather than having the hitters try to slam the ball past a double block, they very often used a tip or a dink to get a point. “We blocked her [Harris] hard kills pretty well,’ Benson said, “but she hurt us more with the tips. We struggled more with those than anything else.”
And Benson said, “We didn’t capitalize on those times we had the lead as much as we needed to.”
She said, “Game one was pretty much point-for-point, just a two-point loss.” One of those times when the Lady Vandals did not capitalize on the opportunities that presented themselves.
The same thing happened in the third set. Benson said, “We had a five- point lead at the beginning, but they caught up and passed us, although we kept it as close as we could. We had some passing and serve- receive errors.” Each are points for the other team.
Savannah Sanders had 13 digs in the match. Josie Hoekenga had six blocks. Karley Wells had four blocks and Alia Minoletti had six kills.
Pahranagat Valley (20-8) then went on to win their third consecutive state title, and number 20 since 1985, a state record, with a 3-1 win over Virginia City, snapping the Muckers 17-match win streak.
Recalling the tremendous year the Lady Vandals had in volleyball with a record of 27-6, the team’s best record since who knows when, Benson said, “We had a very successful year, very positive. The team gets along, they care for each other, they work really hard in practice. Almost across the board they say volleyball is their favorite sport. It was a joy to be with them in the gym.”
The Lady Vandals will lose five seniors to graduation.