Friday night at Spanish Springs, both top teams were safe. That was a positive for one local school, but that meant the end of the season for the other.
After watching the Raiders’ season end one step away from automatically qualifying for state, the Cougars set up the expected championship match between the top two teams in the North by downing No. 2 seed Galena 25-11, 25-11, 25-16.
“We played really well. To get a great start like that is nice,” SSHS volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico said. “You win like that and you expect there to be no fight. That always seems to happen though. Teams get to the third game and have nothing to lose, so they play loose and make us work a lot harder. It’s hard to beat a team 25-10, 25-10, 25-10. The way we came back at the end with a 13-1 run, it’s unbelievable.”
Spanish Springs absolutely demoralized Galena from the start, scoring the first 14 points of the match on the serve of Brandi Brucato, who had a team-high four aces on the night. The Cougars knocked down a handful of kills from all over the court, combined for smothering blocks and dove for point-saving digs en route to the 14-0 lead.
The Cougars’ edge grew to as much as 16, 20-4, following a Melly Munley kill. The Grizzlies got as close as 10 points the remainder of the first game, 21-11, after a 6-1 run. The hosts tallied the final four points of the set.
Game 2 opened with Spanish Springs jumping out to an early 3-0 lead, but Galena rallied for three straight before losing control of the game.
The Cougars doubled up on their foes at 10-5 and 12-6. Munley unleashed a thundering kill that increased the advantage to 13-6, causing the Grizzlies to stop the action with a timeout. The stoppage slowed the momentum and Galena scored back-to-back points.
Then Spanish Springs put up four in a row, leaving the local school with a 17-8 lead on the scoreboard.
The Cougars wouldn’t get it up to double digits until the Grizzlies couldn’t do anything with a Rachel Loadholt serve, which made it 19-9.
Gabby Szachara and Munley put the second set away with a block and kill respectively. The final 25-11 score was the largest margin of Game 2.
The match wasn’t an entire domination by the SSHS spikers.
In Game 3, Galena fell behind 2-0, but tallied the next three points to take its first lead of the match. It wouldn’t be the only lead for the visiting squad.
Casey Kline capped a 3-0 spurt with a kill, putting the south Reno school in the driver’s seat with an 8-5 edge.
The margin remained three points at 9-6, 10-7 and 11-8, but back-to-back points gave Galena its largest lead of the game, 12-8.
Spanish Springs rallied for three unanswered points, but couldn’t tie the game.
Trailing 15-12, the Cougars would do better than knot up the score. Four straight points put them back in the lead and caused the Grizz to call a timeout. Unfortunately for the Black and Yellow, the timeout didn’t swing momentum.
Spanish Springs scored five more points in a row and Galena called its final timeout, trailing by six, 21-15.
The teams exited the break and Munley immediately fired up an ace, concluding the 10-0 run that left the Cougs with a 22-15 lead.
Galena received a sideout when Spanish Springs touched the net, but Loadholt blasted a kill to end the 3-0 match-clinching rally. The Cougars closed out the third set on a 13-1 surge.
Spanish Springs spread its attack around all night. Munley led the way with 12 kills. Loadholt added nine, while Szachara and Lyndsey Anderson chipped in eight and seven respectively.
Anderson also had 19 assists. Hannah Meadows finished with 11 assists.
The win improves Spanish Springs’ record to 35-6 and the Purple and Silver will be seen at next week’s state tournament no matter the outcome of today’s championship match. But the Cougars won’t be satisfied with just an appearance at state. They want to knock off the only team that beat them in league and earn the program’s first regional crown.
“Bottom line is our girls know the Manogue girls well and play club with them,” Sandomenico said. “We can play them anytime anywhere and it would mean a lot. We play them over the summer and it’s 100 degrees in the gym and it’s intense, let alone it’s for a regional championship.
"At the same time, I hope we play relaxed and have some fun. These girls just love volleyball. I hope we play to win, but play loose.”
The championship match is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Spanish Springs today.