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Tigers play host to McQueen in first round volleyball action

by Chuck Smock, sports editor

A 4A Northern Region volleyball season that started in late August will kick into high gear this week, with eight teams vying for a Region title and one of three berths in next week’s state tournament.

Douglas, the No. 1 seed from the Sierra League, will play host to the High Desert No. 4 seed, McQueen, today at 6 p.m. in the DHS gym.

Also today, High Desert top seed Fallon will play host to South Tahoe, while Elko travels to play at Carson and Galena will play host to Wooster.

The semifinals of the Region tournament will be played Saturday at South Tahoe High School at 10 a.m. and noon. The third-place game, which will determine the North’s final state-tournament qualifier, is scheduled for 4 p.m. The championship game will start at 6 p.m.

“This is the fun part of the season,” Douglas coach Scott Akimoto said Monday afternoon. “It should be pretty intense. If we play the way we’ve been playing, we’ll be OK.”

The Tigers (14-2) charged into the playoffs by winning their final seven matches.

And Douglas’ drive to the postseason included a three-game sweep of rival Carson in the final match of the regular season last Thursday. The victory over the Senators secured the Sierra League championship for the Tigers and avenged a five-game loss to Carson in early October.

“That was pretty sweet,” Akimoto said. “We were disappointed with the first loss (to Carson). Blocking was the key in the rematch. We pretty much shut down their offense. There wasn’t much coming across the net that was too effective.

“And our defense got a lot of balls up in the air and did a good job covering the floor. I was real happy with our defense. That was huge.”

The Tigers entered the 2000 season with only five seniors on their 13-player roster and only four players returning with varsity experience.

After a loss to defending state champion Fallon in the third match of the season, Douglas quickly began developing the on-court chemistry that allowed it to win six matches in a row.

Senior setter Jamie McCreary has done an excellent job all season running the Douglas offense.

McCreary and fellow senior Tess Sheridan, a back-row defensive specialist, quickly stepped the leadership roles in games and in practice.

“We’re getting huge leadership from Jamie and Tess,” Akimoto said. “I don’t have to yell or scream at people. They know how to fire people up.”

Net play has been a strength for the Tigers all season. Sophomore Emily Haas and junior Megan Brinkmeyer have dominated in the middle this season.

Juniors Andrea Honer, at outside hitter, and Jencie LeJeune, who moved from the middle to the opposite side hitter position this season, returned with varsity experience and have allowed the Tigers to attack from anywhere on the floor.

Chelsey Myers, another junior, also has shown the ability to take control of a game at the outside hitter position.

And seniors Jennifer McCrosky and Andrea Christian have both had hot streaks when everything they hit seemed to find the floor.

“Our blocking and our defense have been really good and we’ve been putting a lot of balls away as we transition from offense to defense,” Akimoto said.

The coach added that he would like to see his team open the Region tournament with a dominating performance against McQueen. If the Tigers come out and make a statement against the Lancers, all 13 players should get the chance to contribute.

“From a team standpoint, that would be key for the rest of the tournament,” Akimoto said. “It depends how we play. If we blow them away in the first couple of games, hopefully, I can get everyone in.

“It’s a whole-team deal. It’s all 13 kids and they’re all working hard. They’re all busting their butts trying to earn playing time.”