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Tigers escape from loser’s bracket to win volleyball title

Donnie Nelson

The Douglas High School volleyball team found itself in unfamiliar territory Friday evening after losing to South Tahoe in a winner’s bracket semifinal match of the Class 4A Northern Zone tournament at Galena.

But, it’s said, the great teams always find a way to win and that’s exactly what Douglas did.

Douglas battled its way out of the loser’s bracket and eventually beat South Tahoe twice, 15-12, 15-10 and 10-15, 15-2, 15-6, Saturday evening at to capture its third zone championship in seven years.

Douglas, which also won the zone title in 1991 and 1995, had played in the final six straight years coming in. But when the Tigers lost to South Tahoe on Friday morning, the road to the final looked like a daunting task.

“For me, personally, it was a wake-up call we needed,” Douglas coach Jennifer DeJoseph said referring to Friday’s loss. “We had started to get complacent, but we took the loss and learned from it.”

The Tigers made the trip to back to the top, however, in fine fashion. They beat defending zone champion Fallon 15-9, 15-9 in the elimination loser’s bracket final Saturday morning to reach the title match of the double-elimination tournament, where they had to beat the Vikings twice.

Douglas, 36-2 overall and 24-1 against Class 4A northern Nevada teams, now heads to Las Vegas for this weekend’s state tournament. The tournament begins with first-round matches Thursday afternoon and concludes with the championship final Saturday evening.

Douglas was never really in game one of the zone championship final.

South Tahoe reeled off four straight points to take a 5-1 lead. Douglas got back to within 5-4, but a hitting error and passing error led to two more points for the Vikings. South Tahoe eventually extended the lead to 11-5 and never looked back.

Douglas received two blocks and all-around great play at the net by Lulu Sewell, and great digging in the middle by tournament Most Valuable Player Danelle Paterson in the early stages of game one, but it made too many errors. South Tahoe scored eight gimme points off two digging errors, three passing errors and three hitting errors. It also scored points on four stuffed blocks and one ace.

The Tigers minimized its mistakes in the second game and its fortunes changed drastically.

They went on a 3-0 run on Molly Greenberg’s serve to take a 5-1 lead. Sewell and setter Kaycee Green each had a stuffed block in the run. The Tigers extended the lead to 9-2 on two consecutive points on Greenberg’s next serve.

After an exchange of sideouts, Douglas went on a 4-0 run. Paterson capped the run with two kills from the left side fired back down the middle off of cross court passes by Green.

The Tigers picked up in the third game where they left off in the second game, surging to a 9-1 lead. Sewell had two stuffed blocks and a kill, Paterson had two more kills, and Jessica Granett had two stuffed blocks and a kill.

Douglas eventually clinched the championship with an ace by Rebecca Goodspeed, a stuffed block by Sewell and a kill from Greenberg.

Douglas’ defense was outstanding in the final two games. Greenberg and Rebecca Rippee came up time and time again with key digs that led to points or side outs. Green and Goodspeed also came up big defensively, keeping balls alive numerous times with outstretched arms on what looked like sure points or side outs for South Tahoe.

“We almost always play that good, that scrappy defensively,” DeJoseph said.

The offense, led by Green, who had 746 assists during the regular season, did a great job of moving the ball around and keeping South Tahoe’s two towering blockers off balance. It seemed like just about everybody was involved with the attack in one way or another.

“We mixed a few things up,” DeJoseph said. “Our game plan was to go to everybody and spread things out at the net.”

Now, Douglas will try and take its momentum into the state tournament.

“Our goal is to take state,” DeJoseph said. “We probably overlooked zone a little bit.”