Not since George W. Bush was president has the Greenwave volleyball team been on the verge of going to state.
Nearly two decades since Fallon dominated headlines when it won back-to-back 3A state titles, Fallon defeated Sparks in straight sets on Saturday to set up a rematch with South Tahoe with a trip to state on the line.
After Fallon won 25-12, 25-15 and 25-17 in the Northern 3A regional quarterfinals at the Elmo Dericco Gymnasium, the Greenwave will get another shot at the Vikings, who defeated Spring Creek in four games.
Fallon will take on South Tahoe at 6 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals at Truckee High School. Truckee faces Elko at 4 p.m. The championship is Saturday at 10 a.m., with both teams advancing to next week’s state tournament in Reno.
“I was hoping to play a little tougher and get it done faster. We need to focus, work on our hitting and move more,” Fallon coach Nicole Rogne said about her team’s performance against Sparks. “We agreed in the locker room that we need to work on our hitting and getting them down. We can’t hit like that this week.”
Fallon senior Kiley Wallace led the team with 13 kills and added five digs, junior Vernita Fillmore dished out 29 assists and nine digs, and senior Reece Hutchings recorded two aces to go with 11 service points and eight digs. Senior Keliah Brady led the team in aces with three.
“It was nice getting the first game out of the way and getting the nerves out since this was our first playoff game,” Wallace said. “Our team is going (into Friday) with the mindset that if we play to the best of our ability, we can do it and make it to state. But we have to go in with the mindset that we are the best team.”
A DIFFERENT RESULT?
Ball-handling, defense and a low conversion rate at the net led to Fallon falling to South Tahoe in the only meeting of the season on Sept. 22.
The Vikings registered twice as many kills as Fallon (53-26) as they found holes in the Lady Wave’s defense. Fallon led in digs, 76-67, but it couldn’t get deflections at the net as senior Kaitlynn Hoffman had three of the team’s four total blocks.
“We have to play really tough. We played them in four games last time and we stayed up with them,” Rogne said. “We need to play tough, block and play defense. Defense is going to be huge against South Tahoe because those girls hit well. We need lots of defense and blocking. Our defense has improved.”
Fillmore said Fallon has several weapons, especially with a senior quartet at the front in Wallace, Hutchings, Brady and Kaitlynn Hoffman, that can help bail the team out like it’s done several times, including last month’s five-game thriller in Fernley.
“We can put the ball down very well, especially with Kiley and Reece. We have good weapons to use when we’re down,” she added.
Since the South Tahoe loss, Fallon has played better, losing only one match since that meeting when Spring Creek upset the Greenwave two weeks ago.
“In a situation like that, it was good for the girls,” Rogne said. “They did refocus, and they came back strong against Elko the next day. It was three games, and we did not show up. It was probably the worst I’ve seen them play.
“They get it. They know. They’re fighting for it, and they want it. It’s pretty exciting.”
3A EAST TITLE
After taking care of business against the second-place Indians, Fallon got a taste of playoff volleyball when it clinched the 3A East title against Fernley, which finished second at state two years ago. With the Vaqueros facing desperation — they needed to win out, plus some help to make the postseason — Fallon came back from a 2-1 hole to beat its rival in five games.
“It was a big confidence-booster and it helped,” Rogne said. “It was loud in the gym. It was fun. Having a game played like that last week was good for us.”
Hutchings, who stars on the diamond in the spring, is excited for this weekend because of the league’s balance. Elko defeated Truckee in five earlier in the season while the Wolverines rallied from 2-0 to defeat Fernley on Saturday.
“It definitely boosts our confidence a little bit more knowing that some of the teams we beat have beat them or vice versa,” Hutchings added. “It’s extremely helpful to know that we have the ability to beat them.
“We’re all pretty excited. We’re so close and we have one game left. We think we can do it.”