Familiar foes: Tigers take on Gaels | RecordCourier.com

Familiar foes: Tigers take on Gaels

The Douglas Tigers and Bishop Gorman Gaels — two volleyball programs rich in tradition and riding late-season momentum — will take the court against each other Friday night to tip off the NIAA 4A State Tournament in Reno.

Douglas (25-10), the Northern region runner-up, is looking to step toward its sixth all-time state title in a 5:30 p.m. match at Damonte Ranch High School. Standing in the way is Gorman (27-10), the Sunset Region champion and one of the South's most successful programs over the past decade.

This is also a rematch of sorts between two of the state's veteran volleyball coaches: Suzi Townsell of Douglas, who is in her 10th season as head coach at Douglas; and Ed Van Meetren, who has been coaching at Gorman since 1998.

Douglas has won five state titles, three at the large schools level (1983, 1998 and 2010) and two at the medium schools level (2A in 1976, '79). Townsell played as a setter for the undefeated 1983 Douglas team.

It's also worth noting that Douglas won its 2010 state opener 3-0 against a Gorman team that came in with 33 wins. Needless to say, the Tigers would love nothing more than to duplicate that 2010 postseason run.

"We are ready," Townsell emphasized. "Yes, it'll be a tough match Friday but we are excited to match up with Gorman. Our team knows how to grind and work hard getting done what needs to reach our goal."

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Six years later, Van Meetren remembers that state match at Bishop Manogue in Reno, where his Gaels narrowly lost three straight sets to Douglas — 27-25, 25-23, 29-27.

"When we played Douglas in 2010, it was a great match, unfortunately we came up short," he pointed out. "It was very competitive all the way around. It should have been the state finals (Douglas beat Green Valley the next night in a three-set final)."

The Tigers are on a bit of a hot streak with six wins in their last seven matches, the lone setback coming by a 3-2 score against Reno in the region finals this past Saturday. And they come in with a lineup that features three first-team all-Sierra League performers, middle blocker Isabelle Peterson, Virginia Tech-bound setter Talyn Jackson and freshman outside hitter Anna Bertolone, in addition to second-team libero/defensive specialist Raychel Allen and sophomore middle blocker Hailey Hughes.

On the other hand, Gorman defeated Shadow Ridge 3-2 in the Sunset Region championship match this past Saturday in Las Vegas. The Gaels have won eight straight matches since playing in the California Challenge (Torrey Pines, Calif.) and have not lost to a Nevada opponent since opening the season on Aug. 30 with a 3-2 setback against that same Shadow Ridge team.

Van Meetren directs a program that has surpassed 24 wins in eight of the last nine seasons. Van Meetren attended school in Las Vegas (Chaparral High graduate) and played baseball for the Gary Powers-coached Nevada Wolf Pack in the early 1980s.

"I wish Douglas good luck; it should be another great match," the Gorman coach said.

The Gaels have a half dozen players who stand 6-foot or taller (Ashley Brennan at 6-2 is the tallest). Gorman's leader is 6-0 senior Abbey Archambault, who signed a volleyball letter-of-intent with Idaho State on Wednesday, while 6-0 freshman Tommi Stockman had a team-high 18 kills in the region final.

Size won't intimidate the Tigers, especially after playing through a gauntlet last month during their own trip to the San Diego area for the Southern California Invitational. Among the opponents they faced was Utah power Pleasant Grove, which featured three players (6-7, 6-5 and 6-5) who have all committed to play volleyball or basketball at BYU.

"They (Gorman) were taller in 2010 and we fought hard. I know it will be the same Friday," Townsell noted.

"Going to the San Diego tourney did set us up well for post season," she added. "The higher competition assisted our team in challenging us to situations we hadn't seen before, especially going against Pleasant Grove's height and adjusting our block with good success."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: State 4A volleyball tournament

WHEN: Friday, Douglas (25-10) vs. Bishop Gorman (27-10), 5:30 p.m.; Reno (21-5) vs. Silverado (31-7). Saturday, championship match, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Damonte Ranch High School, Reno