A little confidence went a long way for the Carson High School volleyball team Saturday afternoon when the Senators dug themselves out of an early hole to capture a five-set Northern 4A victory at home against arch rival Douglas.
Carson rallied from a two-game deficit to defeat the defending state champion Tigers 9-15, 9-15, 15-7, 15-1, 15-13 at Morse Burley Gymnasium.
This was a win worth savoring as far as the Senators were concerned. It was the first win against Douglas in nine matches since Daryl James returned to coach Carson in 1996. Carson's streak may have dated back even longer than that - it may have extended to 1987, Carson's last conference championship season, when James was the coach.
The win also avenged a 15-12, 15-12, 16-14 sweep at the hands of the Tigers on Oct. 5 in Minden.
In the process, the Senators also vaulted past Douglas in a close race for second place in Division II. Carson is now 12-3 in division, tied for second with Reno, while Douglas slipped to 12-4. Fallon leads the division at 15-1.
"We haven't beat Douglas in a long time," Carson outside hitter Erin Menath said. "It was just time to do it."
The Senators did it largely behind the hitting of Kaitlin Leck and Alyson Thurman, who collected 23 kills each. Leck had seven kills and Thurman collected six blocks against a towering Douglas squad that numbers five 6-footers on its roster.
"Our No. 6 (Leck) and No. 7 (Thurman) willed this team through today," James said. "They dragged them through. They wouldn't allow this team to quit."
Confidence was a key, according to Thurman.
"I think we just started believing in our team," the senior middle blocker said. "We've always believed, but now, we're starting to play with more confidence in each other."
"It's from the heart," Menath interjected.
Carson's confidence continued to swell through a fifth game that saw five lead changes. Douglas held two-point leads twice, 11-9 and 12-10, both the result of blocks by 6-foot senior J.K. Koenig. Carson went up 13-12 with the aid of a Douglas hitting error - and Heidi Alexander's one-handed dig that kept the rally going. The Senators finally closed it out on a Jennifer Saunders ace.
"Volleyball is a game of momentum and a game of mistakes," first-year Douglas coach Dave Myers said. "There was a huge momentum swing they picked up in game three and it carried them through the match.
"I thought in game five we did a good job of creating some opportunities for ourselves, but then we didn't capitalize on a couple of them."
Game four was Carson's all the way. Thurman turned Davina Carter's quick set into a bolt over the middle that gave Carson a 7-1 lead. Thurman followed with a block and then an ace as the Senators extended their lead to 9-1. Menath delivered a kill to keep the momentum going, then Carter fed Leck on the left side for a kill. Another Alexander dig enabled Carter to set Menath for a kill to make it 14-1.
"That fourth game was a strange deal," James said. "That was an anomaly, something you normally don't see between two good teams like this."
What happened? James felt good passing opened the door for the Senators.
"We started passing better. We pass better so we could run the offense better, split their blocks and put the ball away," he said.
In addition to Leck and Thurman, Menath contributed 11 kills and Saunders 10. Carter also handed out 50 assists. Carrie Ostrander served up five aces.
Accuracy from the service line was also critical, James maintained.
"We had eight out serves, which isn't shabby. We've been known to have that many in five minutes in some matches," James said with a chuckle.
Koenig had 17 blocks and 13 kills for Douglas while 6-foot-3 Darshaya Mustacchio added 10 kills. Setter Jaimie McCreary was credited with 38 assists.
Douglas ends its regular season this week at home against Reno on Tuesday and Hug on Thursday. Carson hosts Hug on Tuesday, visits Fallon on Thursday and then returns home to play Elko on Friday.
"If we take care of business, we could be looking at second," James said. "We just have to take it one game at a time and make sure we take care of our side of the net."