Spikers set for state tournament | NevadaAppeal.com

Spikers set for state tournament

For the Galena and Dayton High volleyball teams, there’s no place like home. When Galena and Dayton qualified for the state championships last year, their fortunes weren’t the best down south as both schools fell short of the crown.

For the Douglas, there’s really no place like home. Since only one team from the North qualified for state last year, the Tigers didn’t even have a chance to make their customary appearance in the state event.

But it’s comforting for Galena, Dayton and Douglas to all know they’ll be staying in the area for the NIAA 3A and 4A State Championships which begin Friday at Galena. The 3A action begins at 3:30 p.m. when Pahrump Valley faces Incline to be followed immediately by the Dayton-Spring Creek match. The winners will advance to Saturday’s title match at 2 p.m.

Galena will face Silverado at 6:45 p.m. and Douglas will play Palo Verde at 8:15 p.m. Friday. The winners will play for the title at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Being close to home will be a huge advantage for Dayton. While the Dust Devils had a large contingent of fans travel 300 miles last year to what their team lose in the finals to Moapa Valley, one can be sure that the Dayton Nation will be well represented at Galena.

The Grizzlies faced competition from the Las Vegas area early in the year, but Galena coach Teresa Burrows noted that was a long time ago.

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“They could be totally different teams,” Burrows said. “We always have to take care of our own and do what we do well and stop what they do well and hopefully come out on top.

“There’s four teams that have a good chance. It’s another mini-season. That’s how I look at it.”

Galena advanced to the state event by beating Douglas in four games in the zone finals, with Douglas also advancing as the zone runner-up.

The Grizzlies have a deep and experienced squad with seven seniors. Jenny and Nancy Burrows are the middle blockers while Kate Wallace sets the attack and Lydia and Julia Mailander are the outside hitters. Chelsea Appelbaum is an opposite side hitter, Michelle Drury is another outside hitter, Whitney Garol and Kelly Drury are defensive specialists and Kaitlin Zuppan provides depth at middle blocker and right side hitter.

“Depth is always one of our strengths,” coach Burrows said. “It makes for some very fun practices. I think if we just play within ourselves and don’t make mistakes we should be in the hunt.”

Douglas coach Velvet Steel said she wasn’t surprised that her team made it to state. “I definitely thought they had a chance,” Steel said. “I certainly expected them to get there.”

Steel has an advantage as she’s familiar with the Las Vegas schools since she’s coached in the area. She said she knows that Palo Verde will have a powerful attack. “You’ve got great hitters up here also,” she said. “It’s expected.”

Douglas also has plenty of depth with Erin Fitzgerald and Whitney Estes as middle blockers, Monica Knight, Dawson Joyce-Mendive and Kayla Dunn as outside hitters, Cayla Knapp as a right side hitter, Katy Marsh and Alex Risko as setters and Morgan McKay, Megan Myers and Annie Austin as defensive specialists.

Dayton will look for its first state team title since the school opened at its current site. Dust Devil coach Sondra McMullen said the fact that Dayton has never won a state team title can’t be ignored.

“I try to use it as a little motivation,” she said. “That they’re going to have to work for it. That it’s not going to be given to them.”

Dayton may already have a psychological edge as 13-time defending state champion Moapa Valley and Faith Lutheran, the Southern 3A’s top team during the regular season, didn’t make it to the state event. And there’s the Dayton Nation.

“The Dayton Nation will be there in full force without a doubt,” McMullen said. “It’s just so awesome.”

The Dust Devils advanced after winning the zone title last weekend. The Dust Devils beat Spring Creek both times during the regular season, but McMullen noted that the Spartans were able to make it to state after barely making it to zone as the No. 6 seed.

Dayton is led by senior middle blocker Amanda Sbragia, one of the state’s best players. The Dust Devils have only three seniors. Along with Sbragia there’s outside hitter Nicole Greer and opposite side hitter Macy Hamlin.

Hamlin sustained an ankle injury in last weekend’s zone event, but practiced lightly on Tuesday and Wednesday. “She’s showing a lot of heart. We’ll see,” said McMullen about how much she plays this weekend.

Dayton has strong nucleus of juniors with middle blocker and setter Michelle Bowman, outside hitters Melony Cox and Bailey Garcia, setter Rachel Studebaker, middle blocker Toni May, who can play anywhere in the front row, defensive specialists Kristin Wetzel and Ming Hom and opposite hitter Shaelynn Morris. There’s also sophomore outside hitter Sara Simmons and freshman opposite hitter-setter Gina Henderson.

The Dust Devils also had to overcome the loss of Laura Hall, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament early in the year.

Charles Whisnand is the Nevada Appeal Sports Editor. Contact him at cwhisnand@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1214.