“I’m just really proud of the way we competed,” second-year Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said. “You have to figure that’s the best team in our division and one of the best teams in the state. We absolutely made them beat us ... That’s the best we’ve ever played. We have to take this momentum into the rest of league.”
Spanish Springs knotted the match at 1-1 by stealing Game 2. Reno led most of the second game and eventually built a 19-18 edge. The Cougars responded with the next three points, two coming off aces by Julianna Waller. The two teams traded points the rest of the way and that was enough to give SSHS the win.
Game 3 started ugly for the Cougars. Reno immediately put its hosts on their heels, reeling off the first nine points of the game. Still, the Cougars did not roll over. Spanish Springs scored 10 of the next 13 points to close within 12-10. Despite the best efforts of the visiting Huskies, the Cougars did not go away. They continued to hang around and eventually pulled into a 24-24 deadlock thanks to a Waller kill.
However, that’s as good as it got in Game 3 for Spanish Springs. A service error and kill by Reno’s Samantha O’Connell concluded the contest.
It looked like Spanish Springs would force the match into five games for much of the fourth game. An ace by Reno’s Perry Bradley forged the Huskies into a 13-13 tie. The Cougars answered with a 6-1 spurt to go on top 20-14.
Reno responded in the back-and-forth affair. An 8-1 Reno run pushed the Huskies into a 22-21 advantage. Minutes later, a kill by Waller evened the game back up at 24-24.
The league rivals each scored three of the next six points, but all of Reno’s points in the sequence came after Cougars’ serving errors. The final Spanish Springs serving error gave Reno a 26-25 lead and it finished off the match when the Cougars could not get the ball back over the net and were called for four hits.
“The serving is a doubled-edged sword,” Sandomenico said of his team’s aggressive jump-serve approach. “We got two games from Galena and took these guys to the end because of tough serving. But then when the match gets close at the end, other coaches may back off the jump serves. We’re still learning how to play. We’ve got to go all out. We’ll learn to back off later.
“Last year we served 90 percent, but got killed. If we want to compete with the top teams, we have to learn and get it done.”
Reno won the first game after battling back. Spanish Springs grabbed an early 3-0 lead. The Cougars later led 18-14 after a kill by Melly Munley. Reno rallied from there thanks to an 8-3 outburst that saw it take a 22-20 lead.
Still, Spanish Springs went back on top 24-22 only to see Reno (6-5, 1-0) post the final four points of the game.
“We made just a ton of mistakes,” Reno coach Adrian Hankoff said. “We missed way too many serves and could not get into a rhythm, but Spanish Springs is better. Frank (Sandomenico) is doing an excellent job, all around. His kids compete. They don’t let balls get down. For a big hitting team like us, when they get balls up, that can take the wind out of your sails.”
Spanish Springs (0-1 HDL) fell to 5-7 with the loss. The Cougars return to action Thursday at Hug at 6:15 p.m.