SOUTH LAKE TAHOE - With the NIAA/U.S. Bank 4A State Volleyball Tournament being held in their own back yard, the Galena Grizzlies had no intentions of missing out when the invitations were handed out on Saturday.
The Grizzlies reached out and grabbed the North's final invitation with a four-set victory against Carson in third-place match of the Northern 4A Regional Tournament finals at South Tahoe High School.
A balanced attack in which four different players achieved double digit kills spurred Galena past the Senators 15-12, 7-15, 15-6, 15-8.
Kellie Burton, who says she will sign a national letter-of-intent to play volleyball at Arizona on Wednesday (the opening day of the NCAA early signing period), gave a solid all-around performance that included 18 kills, 27 digs, six blocks and 11 service points with three aces to lead Galena.
After losing a four-set battle to Douglas (15-13, 15-12, 11-15, 15-6) in the semifinals earlier, the Grizzlies knew their backs were up against the wall in regard to qualifying for the state tournament, which begins on Thursday at Galena.
"We didn't want to host state and not be in it," said Burton, a 6-foot-1 senior co-captain. "We were excited. After we lost to Douglas, we knew we had to come out and play hard so we could go to state.
"When we played Douglas, we came out on fire and then like went down. Against Carson, we wanted to make sure we stayed fired up," she added. "We kind of lost it in the second game, but we came back in the third."
Teresa Burrows, who has announced this is her final season at the helm of Galena's volleyball program, was pleased with the team's performance.
"It was tough having an emotional loss against Douglas and for them to come back and have to beat a really good Carson team," Galena coach Teresa Burrows said. "We didn't play real pretty, but we got the job done and took care of business when it counted."
Sophomore Joanna Hixon contributed 11 kills and 12 digs, Ashley Satterwhite 11 kills and seven blocks, Tammie Nettleton 10 kills and 12 digs, and Seslee Howell had seven kills and seven blocks for the Grizzlies. Junior setter Lauren Wallace handed out 49 assists to go with her 19 digs and eight service points.
"Galena just outplayed us tonight. They wanted it more than us and that's the bottom line, really," said Carson coach Daryl James, whose club was bidding to return to state for the second straight year.
Kaitlin Leck, who plans to sign with the University of Washington on Wednesday, led the Senators with 22 kills and seven digs. Rachael DeRiemer put down 15 kills and three blocks, Megan Anderson seven kills and three blocks and Jennifer Saunders seven kills. Chrissy Rose had two service aces and Ryanne Amodei had 43 assists.
Even though Leck was Carson's leader, Burrows felt one of the keys to this match was the Grizzlies' ability to at least partially contain her.
"I thought we handled Kaitlin really well; we shut her down a couple of times on big hits. She wasn't as big a factor as she was the first time we played them, so that kind of helped us," Burrows said, referring to Carson's four-set victory at home against Galena in the second game of the season.
"That and our middle got real involved, which helped. That took a lot of pressure off our outside," she added.
The Senators now close the book on a season in which they compiled a 14-5 record and second-place finish behind Douglas in the Sierra League.
"We were a final four team, so I think it was a good year," James said. "I'm proud of the kids for getting as far as we got," he went on. "We got a lot of young kids, so we'll see what happens next year."