For the second straight match against rival Reed, the Cougars trailed two games to one, only to win the final two games, and the match. For the third straight year, the Cougars are High Desert League champions.
“It’s freaking awesome,” Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said after wrapping up the league title at Reed on Halloween night Thursday.
Spanish Springs (22-7, 13-3 in the HDL) tied with McQueen for first place but held the tiebreaker over the Lancers to earn the HDL's top seed into the North Region Tournament next week.
The 22-25, 25-22, 22-25, 27-25, 15-10 win capped a dominating 41-7, three-year, HDL run for the Cougars’ 12 seniors, most of whom did not see significant varsity playing time until their senior season.
“Our girls just find a way to do it,” Sandomenico said. “I wish I knew what the magic button was.”
Trailing two games to one, the Cougars led the fourth game 24-18 before the Raiders (14-11, 8-8 in the HDL) unraveled six straight points to tie the game and send the massive Reed student section into a frenzy.
Hannah Meadows grabbed the lead back for the Cougars’ with a kill on the next play and put the game away with an ace following a Raider error.
“I just can’t say enough about Hannah Meadows. It’s just unbelievable what we have asked her to do this year and the way she has played.”
Meadows has made a habit this season of filling up the stat sheet and Thursday night was no different. The senior standout finished with 24 assists, 12 kills, 10 digs and four aces.
“(It feels) awesome,” Meadows said of winning the HDL. “That was our goal from the first game of the season and we accomplished that.”
The deciding fifth game was all Spanish Springs as the Cougars jumped out to an 8-3 lead before clinching the match, and the league crown, with a 15-10 win. The Raiders committed six unforced errors in fifth match.
“I don’t know what they were thinking actually,” Reed coach Kris Flagtvedt said. “We gave them way too many points in the very beginning and against a good team you can’t fight back on that.”
The amped-up Spanish Springs squad led the first game 8-7 before Reed scored the next two points and did not surrender the lead the rest of the way, claiming a 25-22, opening-game win.
“We were definitely a little antsy, a little too antsy. We tried to make everything too perfect then we settled down,” Meadows said.
The league champs sprinted to a 20-10 lead in the second game. The overwhelming Reed crowd went ballistic as the home squad closed the gap to 23-22 but an error followed by a kill, from none other than Meadows, tied the match at 1-1.
Reed’s Mo Maluotoga led the Raiders emotionally, and in the stat box, amassing 17 digs, 10 kills, two aces, one and-a-half blocks and an assist. Maluotoga played the first two sets as the libero after stepping into the libero role in Tuesday’s win over North Valleys.
“I liked what she did (against North Valleys) so I thought I would just try it because it gives us another option,” Flagtvedt said. “I think she’s a good player. She can play multiple positions and be very good at all of them.”
Kelsey Donohoe took back over as the libero after the Raiders dropped the second game, 25-22. Donohoe turned in three kills, and a block, playing out of position before racking up 30 digs in her usual position.
Emilie Braun led the Raiders with 14 kills and also chipped in 13 digs. Maddy Funk finished with nine kills and a match-high, six blocks.
For Spanish Springs, Gabby Szachara was a force at the net with a match-high, 17 kills, and team-high, five blocks.
The Cougars will host the Sierra League No. 4 seed Carson in the first round of the regional playoffs, Tuesday at 6 p.m.
With the culmination of the regular season, Spanish Springs claimed its fourth consecutive Academic State Title. The Cougars own a 3.76 team grade-point average.
Reed, the HDL No. 4 seed, will open the Regional Tournament at Bishop Manogue. The Miners swept the Raiders (25-22, 26-24, 25-18) on their home floor in the team’s only meeting this season.