Tigers take Galena in volleyball semifinals | RecordCourier.com
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Tigers take Galena in volleyball semifinals

by Chuck Smock, Record-Courier sports editor

It’s often said in sports that one of the hardest things to do is beat a good team three times in the same season.

The Galena Grizzlies were three points away from proving that axiom in the semifinals of the NIAA/U.S. Bank State volleyball championship tournament Friday.

And then the Douglas Tigers woke up.

Douglas, which had beaten Galena in four games in the Region tournament semifinals last weekend and had defeated the Grizzlies in five games in the regular season, survived a rough start and rallied for a remarkable victory.

The Tigers pulled out the match 1-15, 10-15, 15-12, 15-3, 15-8. The victory earned Douglas a berth in today’s state championship match at 3 p.m. at Galena High School. The Tigers will take on the winner of Friday evening’s match between defending state champ Fallon and Durango.

“We’ve done it before, so we knew we could go out there and beat them in three more games,” senior setter Jamie McCreary said when asked about her team’s reaction to being down 0-2 after two games. “We calmed down and played our game. As soon as we started that third game, I knew it was ours. I knew we were going to win three straight.”

Douglas faced deficits of 8-3 and 12-9 in the third game of the best-of-five match. With a trip to the state championship match on the line, the Tigers rallied to score seven points and win the game.

The fourth game was all Tigers, as Douglas jumped out to a 9-3 lead and then buried the Grizzlies with two aces from Jennifer McCrosky, kills by Emily Haas and McCreary and two Galena errors.

The fifth and final game was played under rally scoring rules, in which every serve results in a point.

Galena went up 6-3 in the fifth game before Haas came up with a big kill that sent her to the service line. She immediately served up an ace and then Chelsey Myers put a ball to the floor to tie the score. Another ace by Haas and a kill by Jencie LeJeune gave the Tigers an 8-6 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

With the same two-point advantage, 9-7, LeJeune stepped in to serve and reeled off a four-point run that spotted Douglas a 13-7 lead. Kills by McCreary and Myers and an ace fueled the final run.

After a sideout – and a Galena point – LeJeune made a diving dig that somehow cleared the net and found the floor on the Grizzlies’ side of the net for a 14-8 Douglas advantage. A Galena hitting error ended the game.

“These kids have a lot of heart,” Douglas coach Scott Akimoto said. “They know exactly what they need to do to win.”

Tess Sheridan, a backrow specialist who along with McCreary is the only senior in the Douglas starting lineup, said the fact that the Tigers didn’t panic despite their early trouble was the key to the match.

“We thought we were the better team and we knew if we played our game, stepped up, we could take it,” Sheridan said. “It’s hard to beat a team three times in a row, but we were just thinking about this game. We said we had to play our game, at our level, and we could beat them.”

Myers had 11 kills and nine digs against the Grizzlies.

Douglas advanced to the semifinals with a three-game sweep of Las Vegas’ Centennial High on Thursday.

The Tigers trailed the Bulldogs 5-1 in the first game and 5-0 in the third, but fought back to secure a relatively easy victory. Douglas won, 15-8, 15-10, 15-10.

“We were more excited than nervous,” sophomore setter Brittany Addeo said of her team’s slow start in the first and last games. “We wanted it, and when Douglas wants it, they get it.

“We always have the mindset that we’re going to have to work for it. We work hard and aim for our goals. We all want to be here and we’re all working together. It’s fun.”

And all 12 Tigers in uniform made contributions.

Haas led the Tigers with 11 kills, seven blocks and 13 digs against the Bulldogs.

“I wasn’t nervous at all,” the sophomore said. “I was just ready to have fun.”

Myers finished with 10 kills and seven digs, Megan Brinkmeyer added five kills and two blocks, LeJeune had four kills and four digs and Honer had three kills and eight digs.