TRUCKEE — Making the playoffs for the first time in four years, the Greenwave volleyball team fell short of punching its ticket to the state tournament.
After having problems defending No. 2 South Tahoe’s (3A West) hard-hitting attack in the first meeting two months ago, No. 1 Fallon (3A East) couldn’t adjust to the Vikings mix-and-match of hard kills and soft tips in falling 26-24, 25-21 and 25-23 in Friday night’s Class 3A Northern Region semifinal at Truckee High School.
“Their tips were killing us. They kept just dropping right there, right behind the block,” Fallon coach Nicole Rogne said. “They did not tip like that as much (in the first meeting, a Fallon loss, in September), but we weren’t playing up either. Our back row kept playing back and I had to yell at them a few times to make that adjustment. The tips were killing us.”
No. 2 Elko (3A East), which Fallon swept during the season, took down No. 1 Truckee (3A West) in the semifinal before sweeping the Vikings on Saturday to win the regional championship. Elko and South Tahoe will play in the Class 3A state tournament on Friday at the University of Nevada’s Virginia Street Gym.
The senior duo of Kiley Wallace and Reece Hutchings accounted for 23 of the team’s 33 digs with Wallace leading the team with 13 and an attack percentage of .394. Hutchings and junior Vernita Fillmore each recorded a double-double as Hutchings finished with 10 kills and 12 digs, and Fillmore led the team in digs with 13 and assists with 17.
Three other players recorded kills, including senior Keliah Brady with four, and senior Kaitlynn Hoffman and junior Raygen Bartel each with three. Wallace finished with nine digs and Bartel had seven. Hoffman and Wallace combined for four total blocks each, and Hutchings and junior Halle Johnson each had three total. Johnson had Fallon’s only ace to go with 10 assists.
BATTLING FOR EVERY POINT
All three games were highly contested with both teams having game point in the opener. South Tahoe controlled the end of the second game after Fallon jumped to a big lead, but Fallon was two points away from forcing a fourth game.
During the season, Fallon performed strong in late-game situations, including the five-set win over Fernley to clinch the No. 1 seed from the 3A East.
“Usually in those intense moments, they play really well,” Rogne said. “I don’t know if it was the pressure, but they usually play well during those last few points. They didn’t do it tonight.”
Despite the season-ending loss, Rogne is excited about Fallon’s future.
The Wave won their first outright regular-season championship in more than a decade when the 2011 team advanced to state, the last trip for the program.
“We’ve come a long way this year, a long way. I think it’s going to be good from here out,” Rogne said. “The seniors were hard workers. They worked hard and hustled, and most of the time, had a good attitude about it. They worked hard in practice and they were leaders.”
Both teams traded blows in the opening game with South Tahoe leading early before Hoffman and Wallace’s attacks tied the game at 15. A couple of South Tahoe errors, including a double hit, and timely hits and blocks from senior Brady and Wallace gave Fallon a 19-17 lead.
Then the Vikings started to revise their attack style, mixing hard hitting with tips and pushes.
Cristiana Fornara tipped the ball over the left side before blocking Wallace to tie the game at 19. Both teams continued to go back and forth with Hutchings’ block of Chloe Kernes and her long kill giving Fallon two leads at 23-21 and 23-22. Bartel’s kill was blocked wide, setting up game point for Fallon at 24-23. Olive Chandler's tip and Fornara’s block against Wallace swung game point in the Vikings’ favor. After a Fallon timeout, Chandler’s tip from the left ended the game.
“I’ve seen them play way better but they had lots of good hits and blocks,” Rogne said.
LOSING THE EARLY LEAD
Fallon jumped ahead early in the second game, leading by as many as seven points (12-5).
Senior Bailey Stritenberger won a point on a return, Wallace recorded a kill and followed with another block. Double-hits and attack errors allowed South Tahoe to come back, tying the game at 14 on Fornara’s kill, prompting a Fallon timeout.
Fallon and South Tahoe traded points with no team leading by more than two (South Tahoe at 18-16). A Viking double-hit tied the game at 20 followed by junior setter Fillmore’s double-hit called on a set, giving South Tahoe the last lead of the game. Sophia Zellmer blocked Hutchings but the Fallon senior responded to win the next point on a cross-court kill as South Tahoe led 22-21. Addie Menke’s kill increased the lead and Chandler's cross-court attack set up game point. Fornara blocked Bartel, capping off an 18-8 run for the Vikings after they trailed by eight.
South Tahoe rode momentum into the third game, racing out to a 13-8 lead before Fallon called timeout after Fornara’s back-to-back kills. Wallace helped trim the deficit with consecutive points, Johnson recorded a block and Hutchings’ kill lifted Fallon to double-digits in points, trailing 15-10.
Fallon got to within two points when Wallace’s consecutive kills trimmed the score to 19-17. But South Tahoe scored the next three points on Johnson’s double hit and Fallon’s four-hit error to lead 22-17.
The Wave rallied to tie the game at 23 thanks to blocks from Johnson, Hutchings and Hoffman. Hutchings’ kill, though, sailed long and Simone Sitchon’s kill ended Fallon’s comeback attempt.