RENO -- Now that the Dayton High volleyball team has had a taste of the NIAA/U.S. Bank 3A State Championships, it's already looking forward to next year.
On Friday in the state semifinals, Moapa Valley looked like a team that has won 11 straight state titles on the verge of winning a 12th. Meanwhile, Dayton looked like a team that just needed the experience of playing in the state event to build enough confidence to make a serious run at next year's state title.
The Dust Devils can be encouraged by their showing on Friday in a 5-15, 12-15, 9-15 loss to Moapa at Galena High in a match where Dayton played on even terms with the Pirates for much of the second and third games. Moapa will play Pahrump Valley, which also swept Manogue in three games, for the state title today.
Dayton coach Sondra McMullen sounded and encouraged and disappointed at the same time after the match. While McMullen said she thought he team could have played better, she knows the experience should help the Dust Devils for next year. Dayton loses only one senior in Rachel Hurt.
"My goal was to get this team to state," McMullen said. "We were too jumbled up and a mess at times. At times we played well.
"We got a little scared. We missed serves that we shouldn't have been missing at this time of year."
McMullen said the Pirates' success can be a benefit -- and burden -- for them at the same time.
"They've got the height. They hit the snot out of the ball. They also have the mental edge. That's a heckuva load they're carrying because everybody's out for them," said McMullen about the 11 straight titles.
McMullen wouldn't blame her team's struggles on its inexperience.
"I think more nerves than inexperience and youth," she said. "We did have a few shining moments. We didn't roll over and die."
Dayton's chance to break through came in the second game. Amanda Ring served for six straight points as the Dust Devils built a 6-0 lead. Carey Kytle had two blocks, Hurt had two kills, Sarah Connet had a block and Ring served for an ace during the run.
Another block by Kytle helped give Dayton an 8-1 lead, but Moapa went on a 7-0 run to tie the score 8-8. Kytle responded with a kill and Connet had a kill to give Dayton an 11-8 lead.
After Moapa came back to tie the score again at 11-11, Amanda Sbragia and Bridgette Galles combined on a block that gave the Dust Devils a 12-11 lead, but the Pirates wouldn't be denied.
"That would have helped us tremendously," said McMullen if her team would have won game two. "We play a lot on emotion."
Moapa built a 5-0 lead in game three, but Dayton kept fighting back.
Hurt and Sbragia had kills and Kytle and Ring had blocks as Dayton closed to within 6-4. Sbragia's block closed Dayton to within 9-7 and Kytle's block cut the deficit to 11-8 before Moapa prevailed.
Dayton took a 3-1 lead in game one, but Moapa went on a 12-0 run to take a 13-3 lead. Hurt's kill made it 13-4 and stopped the bleeding, but the damage was done.
Kytle had 12 blocks, six digs and seven kills and Sbragia had 12 kills and five blocks.
"They got some real good blocks on Moapa," McMullen said. "I think that helped our morale and shook up Moapa at times."
Hurt had five kills and six digs. "She's definitely one of the reasons were here," McMullen said.
"She's been a good leader. She's played all the way around for us. She'll definitely be missed."
Connet had four blocks, four digs and 16 assists and served for nine points, Ring served for 10 points and had nine digs, Danielle Rodriguez had five digs and Galles had eight assists and two blocks.