Nevada volleyball state tournament: Douglas, Dayton ready to grab the championships | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada volleyball state tournament: Douglas, Dayton ready to grab the championships

Dayton’s Kallie Strong (2) blocks a shot from Truckee’s Anika Pensrose as Makenna Olsen (4) looks on in Saturday's Northern 3A Regional Volleyball Tournament in Fallon.

Hoping to build off momentum created in the regional playoffs, the Dayton Dust Devils open play in the NIAA 3A State Volleyball Championships against Moapa Valley today at 2 p.m. at Damonte Ranch.

Dayton enters the match with a 19-12 record while Moapa Valley is 26-10, including a perfect 10-0 league record. Moapa Valley dropped just one set in three regional matches.

Dayton coach Monica Halverson said she doesn't know much about Moapa, and what she has found out has been from an area coach.

"I know they have one big player (5-11 Eden Whitmore) and everything revolves around her," Halverson said. "I'll look for more information (online)." Halverson said she hadn't seen any video on Moapa.

Whitmore, according to stats on MaxPreps, had 120 kills with a kill rate of .467. Jalea Blasingame, another 5-11 player, is coming off a solid effort at the net in the regional title match against Boulder City.

Another strong player is junior outside hitter Shelbi Walker, and the Pirates also have right-side/setter Madison Bush, setter Aria Messer and setter Rylee May. Walker had eight service aces in one match at the regionals.

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Halverson said her preparation hasn't changed this week.

"We're not going to focus on any one thing," she said. "All the girls have a way of stepping up to the talented players on the other side of the net.

"We are working on the mental side. Sometimes the girls struggle with that."

Dayton lost twice to Fallon in the regular season, but bounced back and knocked the Greenwave out of the playoffs in last week's semifinals.

Sophomore Brianda Diaz led the team in kills (154) with Makenna Olsen, and aces (38), and she was second in digs (204).

Setter Kalli Strong was first in assists (439), third in digs (120) and third in aces (26). Senior libero Hailey Wells led the team in digs (311) and was second in aces (34).

Besides 154 kills, Olsen had a team-best 39 blocks and 46 digs. Ashley Mason had a third-best 126 kills and was fourth best in digs (18). Kassie Strong had 34 blocks, 10 digs, and 80 kills.

4A: Douglas vs. Bishop Gorman

The Douglas Tigers and Bishop Gorman Gaels — two volleyball programs rich in tradition and riding late-season momentum — will take the court against each other tonight to tip off the NIAA 4A State Tournament in Reno.

Douglas (25-10), the Northern region runner-up, is looking to step toward its sixth all-time state title in a 5:30 p.m. match at Damonte Ranch High School. Standing in the way is Gorman (27-10), the Sunset Region champion and one of the South's most successful programs over the past decade.

This is also a rematch of sorts between two of the state's veteran volleyball coaches: Suzi Townsell of Douglas, who's in her 10th season as head coach at Douglas; and Ed Van Meetren, who has been coaching at Gorman since 1998.

Douglas has won five state titles, three at the large schools level (1983, 1998 and 2010) and two at the medium schools level (2A in 1976, '79). Townsell played as a setter for the undefeated 1983 Douglas team.

It's also worth noting Douglas won its 2010 state opener 3-0 against a Gorman team who came in with 33 wins. Needless to say, the Tigers would love nothing more than to duplicate that 2010 postseason run.

"We are ready," Townsell emphasized to The Record-Courier. "Yes, it'll be a tough match Friday but we are excited to match up with Gorman. Our team knows how to grind and work hard getting done what needs to be done to reach our goal."

Six years later, Van Meetren remembers that state match at Bishop Manogue in Reno, where his Gaels narrowly lost three straight sets to Douglas — 27-25, 25-23, 29-27.

"When we played Douglas in 2010, it was a great match, unfortunately we came up short," he pointed out. "It was very competitive all the way around. It should have been the state finals (Douglas beat Green Valley the next night in a three-set final)."

The Tigers are on a bit of a hot streak with six wins in their last seven matches, the lone setback coming by a 3-2 score against Reno in the region finals this past Saturday. And they come in with a lineup that features three first-team all-Sierra League performers, middle blocker Isabelle Peterson, Virginia Tech-bound setter Talyn Jackson and freshman outside hitter Anna Bertolone, in addition to second-team libero/defensive specialist Raychel Allen and middle blocker Hailey Hughes.

On the other hand, Gorman defeated Shadow Ridge 3-2 in the Sunset Region championship match this past Saturday in Las Vegas. The Gaels have won eight straight matches since playing in the California Challenge (Torrey Pines, Calif.) and have not lost to a Nevada opponent since opening the season on Aug. 30 with a 3-2 setback against that same Shadow Ridge team.

Dave Price of The Record-Courier contributed to this report

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