Reno beats Douglas for volleyball crown

On Saturday the Huskies put on their own command performance, sweeping Carson in three games and trimming the Douglas Tigers in five games in the finals to win the NIAA Northern 4A regional championship - their first since 1977.

With the victory over Douglas, Reno - the No. 2 seed from the Sierra League - improved to 17-2 on the season and qualified for the state championships, to be held in Las Vegas next week.

"They're a great group of players," said fifth-year Reno coach Fred Santos. "They've been working hard all year. They put a lot of effort on the court. They're a talented group of players. They played defense; they fought; they don't stop until the final whistle. They showed that today."

After taking a 25-18, 25-16, 27-25 victory over the upstart Senators, the Huskies had to dig deep against the Tigers, who came back to take two consecutive games after dropping the first one.

Trailing 25-18, 23-25, 21-25, the Huskies never trailed in taking the fourth game 25-19. Reno led by as many as four points - 5-1 - in the fifth game before the Tigers went on a 7-1 run and took an 8-6 lead on a hitting error by Reno sophomore Aubrey Mitchell.

The game was tied four times - at 8, 9, 11 and 12 - before sophomore Perry Bradley contributed a trio of blocks to give the Huskies the match at 15-12.

Junior outside hitter Shelbie Zaldain had a team-high 22 kills, senior middle blocker Megan Barrenchea had eight kills and eight blocks, and Bradley added 40 assists for Reno.

"It's been a long journey," Santos said. "It's been my goal to build a good program. We eliminated all of (the Tigers') offense. I'm proud of the team and proud for myself to be part of a group that won the championship after 30 years."

The Tigersa dvanced to the finals by beating defending state champion Damonte Ranch 22-25, 25-22, 26-24, 25-19.

First-year Douglas coach Suzi Townsell spent the year keeping her Tigers active, preparing them for a run at the regional and state championships. They ended their season 33-5.

"Both teams fought hard to the end," Townsell said. "We have nothing to be ashamed about to fight to the end. We never gave up. We had a few errors here and there - that's the momentum change. That's volleyball.

"Service errors were huge for us. We don't make those mistakes. We gave it to them. But give it to Reno - they fought right along with us."

Although she will lose four seniors, Townsell said she's excited with what she'll have next season.

"They're awesome - they're so talented," she said. "That's what's wonderful about the team. I used all 12 of them. To have them all do their job, it's going to make coaching them next year fun."

The Senators, who ended their season 17-13, got off to a slow start and, even though they started to find their rhythm in the third game, couldn't quite get over the hump.

"We never got in the flow tonight," said Carson coach Shana Wilkins, who said she wouldn't return to the team next year because she is pregnant and will give birth at the end of June. "We didn't play like we did (Friday, in a four-game upset over No.1 McQueen), which wasn't unexpected. We set our goal to make it to the second round. We got our goal (Friday).

"To turn around and play that way again wasn't supposed to happen. We were the No. 4 seed and beat the No. 1 seed. We're just ecstatic to do that. We played amazing (Friday). Reno is a good team. Their hitters are good; their defense is good - they don't make a lot of mistakes. I think we reached exactly where we wanted to be, which was the second round."

Wilkins said the Senators have a strong foundation for next season.

"They'll be an amazing squad," she said of the Senators, who will graduate two seniors - Morgan Nuckolls and Nicole Carlevato. "Whoever comes to coach them, they'll have a great team next year. They should be in state next year."

This year, that honor belongs to the Huskies, who will try to win the team's first-ever state championship to go with its three regional crowns.


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