Douglas cruises to state volleyball title |

Douglas cruises to state volleyball title

by Chuck Smock

For the five seniors, it was time for redemption.

For the Douglas High volleyball program, it was a chance to show sports fans across Nevada that the Tigers deserved to be called state champions.

And when the Tigers walked off the floor at Galena High on Saturday following their victory over Green Valley in the state title match, they had accomplished both objectives.

Douglas captured its first state volleyball championship in 15 years, and only its second in school history, with the 15-5, 15-13, win over the Gators. And in doing so, the Tigers erased the memories of losing twice in a row to Durango in the championship round of the state tournament last season.

The victory was especially sweet for the five seniors, Linzy Doherty, Kaycee Green, Rebecca Rippee, Lulu Sewell and Crystal Soderman

“It was really important because last year we came so close, but it slipped out of our hands,” Doherty said. “This year we knew it was our team and we had control of what would happen.”

Rippee said she and her teammates had no trouble finding motivation heading into the championship match, even after an emotional win over South Tahoe the night before.

“We were so pumped up, so ready to win and so excited, nothing was going to stop us,” Rippee said. “We look back at last year and it was such a shock. We all look back and we don’t even know what happened. We knew how bad it felt to lose and we didn’t want that to happen again.”

“We played with a lot of excitement and a desire to win. Everyone on the team stepped it up. It was a total team effort.”

Sewell, Rippee and Doherty, along with juniors Jessica Granat and J.K. Koenig and sophomore Darshaya Mustacchio dominated at the net for the Tigers. Soderman and junior Natalie Stratton led an inspired defensive effort. Junior Michelle Roza and Sewell were incredibly effective at the service line. And Green, who finished her third season as the varsity setter at DHS, distributed the ball well and made even the most difficult plays look routine.

Green Valley defeated South Tahoe Saturday morning to earn the right to play for its fourth state title in the last six years. It was the Gators’ fourth win in a row in the losers’ bracket of the double-elimination tournament.

But Green Valley’s great run ended against a Douglas team that seemed destined to win the title. The Tigers didn’t lose one game in four matches at the state tournament.

“It’s incredible,” Soderman said Monday night. “I feel like it still hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s the most incredible feeling.”

The Tigers turned in an impressive performance in the winners’ bracket final against South Tahoe on Friday night to advance to the championship match. The Vikings had defeated the Tigers twice in a row, including in the zone championship the previous Saturday, but the first game was all Douglas. The Tigers reeled off a 6-0 run to start the match and cruised to a 15-4 win.

South Tahoe proved it belonged in the state tournament by storming to a 10-1 lead in the second game. The Vikings also led 12-2 and 13-5, but couldn’t put away the Tigers. Douglas, which easily could have given up on the game and settled for trying to win the match in a third game, refused to be intimidated.

“I think we might have gotten ahead of ourselves,” Soderman said of the lapse at the start of the second game. “We were thinking about winning the match and not concentrating on winning each point.”

A large, vocal cheering section gave the Tigers the extra incentive they needed to fight for the second game and stay in the match.

“It really helped to have (the fans) there,” Rippee said. “It’s fun and it gives you confidence. When you have all those people cheering for you and supporting you, it’s a whole lot easier to play.”

Soderman said taking a collective deep breath as a team was the key to the Tigers getting back on track in the second game against South Tahoe.

“We started slowing everything down and concentrating on the fundamentals,” she said. “Defense was definitely a key. We needed to step it up and we definitely did that.”

Soderman added that the defensive effort started up front with the net play. The Tigers effectively eliminated the threat of South Tahoe’s most dangerous hitter, Adrian Hankoff.

“When Adrian is there, you know you have to shut her down,” Soderman said. “Without good net play, the defense can’t do much with those hits.”

And if South Tahoe had an advantage coming into the match by virtue of its two consecutive wins over Douglas, the Vikings couldn’t capitalize on it.

“I wasn’t thinking about the two times we lost to them, I was thinking about the two times we beat them,” Doherty said. “We were not intimidated, we just came out and played our game.”

“It was really incredible. Everybody kept fighting so hard to come back. We just all believed we could do anything we put our hearts and minds to.”

And the result of that attitude is a state championship.

“The bus ride home was kind of quiet and then every once in a while someone would scream “State champs!'” Soderman said. “When we pulled into the parking lot at the high school, it hit us when we saw marquee that said ‘Good Luck Volleyball at State.’ We realized all the hard work had paid off and the season was a success.

“We were going to wear our medals to school on Monday, but we thought that might be a little much.”

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