Unfortunately, Spanish Springs was going up against a team that’s been in this position before and seemed impervious to the partisan crowd’s raucous nature.
But Green Valley, the defending 4A state champions, which dispatched Reed a year ago for the title, had not experienced the resilience of the Cougars before and witnessed it firsthand Saturday night.
After being torched in the first game, Spanish Springs fed off the energetic crowd and handed out its own whipping. The Cougars then proceeded to earn the school’s first volleyball state championship with a 12-25, 25-12, 25-21, 25-22 triumph.
Spanish Springs looked like the new kids on the block, falling in Game 1 without putting up much of a fight. But those resilient Cougars bounced back in the second set looking relaxed and put on a clinic.
Spanish Springs tallied seven of the first eight points in Game 2 and never looked back, tying the match at one game apiece with its own 13-point win.
“We told the girls Green Valley beat Manogue 25-11 in the first game last night. They just handed it to Manogue in Game 1. Manogue adjusted,” SSHS volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico said. “Green Valley is just so good that it takes a while to get used to their hitters and the pace they play at. We told them Manogue came back and played so much better against them…They’re just such a good team. It took us a game to adjust.”
Spanish Springs took control of the match by surging from behind in Game 3.
Green Valley led by as much as five, 9-4, after Carly Schiess slammed a kill despite losing one of her shoes during the rally.
But anyone who watched the Cougars survive three match points against Bishop Gorman in a five-set marathon less than 24 hours earlier, knew there was plenty of fight left in these Cougars.
Spanish Springs had a chance to tie the game at 11-11, but Melly Munley’s tip down the line was called a lift. Munley then answered with an emphatic kill off the backline and a spike into the net by Green Valley knotted the score at 12-12.
The teams were still tied at 13-13 when Munley ripped an ace, giving the No. 2 seed out of the North a 14-13 edge, its first lead since it was 1-0.
Back-to-back points by the Gators sent the advantage back to the Henderson school, but it would be their last lead.
With the game deadlocked at 18-18, three straight points by the Cougs forced a Green Valley timeout, but an SSHS block capped the 4-0 run and left the Purple and Silver with a 22-18 cushion. That four-point margin was how the third set ended.
Green Valley needed a win in Game 4 to stay alive in the match and defend its state title.
The Gators enjoyed a slight edge at 9-6, but the Cougars tied it up at 10-10 thanks to a Gabby Szachara kill.
Spanish Springs tied up the fourth set at 11-11 and 14-14 before snatching a 15-14 edge on a miss-hit by Green Valley.
The Gators immediately brought the teams even again at 15-15 on a Schiess kill. The opponents traded sideouts until at 17-17, Green Valley put two more points together, forcing a Cougars timeout.
Green Valley tallied two of the next three points for a 21-18 advantage, leading to another Spanish Springs timeout. This time, the Cougars erupted.
A Munley tip initiated a 4-0 rally and her 20th kill of the night capped it off, forging Spanish Springs into a 22-21 lead and fired up the crowd that felt a win was within the Cougars‘ grasp.
“They gave us a lot of energy. We definitely came out with our own energy, but they gave us most of it,” Munley said of the fans.
Schiess tied it up with a kill down the line, but the Gators didn’t score again, watching a block, a Szachara kill and a Munley ace close off the Cougars’ run to a state crown, a week after being steamrolled by Bishop Manogue in the regional championship game. The Miners lost to the Gators 25-11, 25-18, 22-25, 23-25, 15-10 in the state semis Friday night.
Rachel Loadholt and Szachara contributed 11 and 10 kills to the winning cause. Lyndsey Anderson handed out 32 assists and Hannah Meadows added 14. Brandi Brucato finished with a team-high four aces.
“It’s been our goal since our freshman year to make it all the way. We’re so happy that we could do it this year,” Munley said. “We worked really hard in practice. We had to get it done or we wouldn’t make it all the way.”