“They absolutely blocked us the first two games,” McQueen coach Jeff Zimmerman said of Spanish Springs. “Then we tried to spread our offense out a little bit and change up our shots. We hit a few more tips.”
In the first two games, Spanish Springs looked like the perennial playoff team instead of the upstart club, looking for its first postseason invitation in nine years. Leading 15-14 in Game 1, Spanish Springs posted four straight points. McQueen got as close as two twice down the stretch, the last at 23-21. That’s as close as the northwest Reno school could get as the Cougars sandwiched a Lyndsey Anderson kill and McQueen service error around a Lancers point to finish the game.
In Game 2, McQueen pulled within a point, 7-6, after a Payton Fine kill. That’s when Spanish Springs took control. The Cougars outscored the Lancers 9-3 to go on top 16-10. The spurt was capped by a Julianna Waller kill.
Still, McQueen didn’t go away. The Lancers rallied to get within two, 18-16 after freshman Jamie Palotai put down one of her team-high 13 kills. Spanish Springs scored the next three points, all on blocks by Emily Meister to extend its edge to 21-16. McQueen could not get closer than three through the remainder of Game 2.
Game 3 saw Spanish Springs capture a 7-6 lead following a Callie Aberle kill. That’s when the tide turned in McQueen’s favor. The Lancers scored the next three points and did not trail again in the third game.
Spanish Springs had its best chance to pull out a match triumph in Game 4. Trailing 12-11, the host Cougars put together a string of five straight points. The outburst was capped by a Stacey Witt ace. McQueen responded by putting up six of the next seven points, a run concluded with a Fine block.
A kill by Waller shortly thereafter knotted the game at 19-19, but McQueen scored the next three points and was not threatened again in the fourth game.
“You have to give McQueen some credit. We told the girls McQueen won’t beat themselves and for us to beat them we had to take it to them. We did and that’s why we won the first two games,” Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said. “Then they adjusted. They picked up their serving and our passing went bad. When we can’t pass, we can’t run middles and we if can’t do that, we can’t beat good teams.”
Game 5 was never close. The Lancers scored the first five points and held the Cougars at bay. From there, the closest Spanish Springs could get was three, 9-6. McQueen scored six of the final seven points in the final game to steal the road win.
“I was pleased with the way we came back,” Zimmerman said. “We were down two games to none tonight and we haven’t really been challenged in league this year except for (league-leading) Reno. It was great to fight our way back.”
The match wraps up the first go-round of HDL play for both teams. McQueen (14-6 overall) sits squarely in second place with a 5-1 HDL mark. Spanish Springs (9-14) falls to 2-4 in conference clashes, good for a three-way tie for fourth place. The top four HDL teams will advance into next month’s Northern 4A tournament.
“We just have to learn how to win and its hard,” Sandomenico said. “We’ve been open for nine years now and we’ve never beaten them. It’s hard to overcome that hump. It’s a very difficult thing to teach girls to win. McQueen expects to win and we hope to win. That’s the difference between them and us.”
Witt finished the match with 17 assists, four aces and four blocks for Spanish Springs. Anderson chipped in 18 assists and eight digs. Aberle led the Cougars with 13 kills in the losing effort.