Yerington volleyball advances to 3A finals
Appeal Sports Writer
RENO – The Yerington Lions volleyball team has never won a state title, but after a five-game slugfest with rival and defending Class 3A state champion Lowry on Friday, it is now one step away from hanging a banner in its gym.
All-action Kayla Lommori had a team-high 26 kills and 11 blocks and outside hitter Dena Helme added 11 kills, six blocks and eight digs to lead the Lions to a 25-12, 24-26, 25-23, 16-25, 15-7 victory over the Buckaroos in the state semifinals at Galena High School.
With the win, the Lions improved to 34-2 on the season and will meet Faith Lutheran today at 2 p.m. in the state championship game.
The Crusaders, 26-9, defeated Spring Creek, 25-18, 25-16, 25-22 to advance to the finals. Darian Metcalf had nine kills, Emily Cook added six kills and Tracey Anderson chipped in eight digs and 24 assists for Faith Lutheran, which is also seeking its first state championship.
“We are a very young team and knew it would be a very mental (match) for us,” said Anna Aiazzi, in her seventh year as head coach for Yerington. “The girls were nervous in their first appearance in the state championships.”
Behind the play of Lommori, the Lions jumped up on Lowry, whom they have beaten in four of five meetings and defeated for their first-ever Northern 3A regional championship this season.
The 5-foot-11 Lommori was all over the court and had three service aces to give Yerington what amounted to an insurmountable 14-5 lead in the first game.
“I think they were a little more mentally prepared than we were,” said sixth-year Lowry coach Stephanie Wade, whose Buckaroos finished their season 23-6. “We got behind too many points to come back.”
Perhaps in the match, but Lowry overcame eight Yerington leads to win the second game and led 7-1 in the third before Lommori and Helme teamed up to rally the Lions.
Angela Marraccini, all 5-foot-5 of her, was scrappy from her outside hitter position and got two of her four kills in the third game to give Yerington an 18-14 cushion.
Marraccini added another kill to give Yerington a 23-19 lead, but the Buckaroos closed the lead to 23-22 and later 24-23 before Lommori put the game away with another kill.
“She’s a totally focused young lady,” Aiazzi said of Lommori, a sophomore. “She knows what she needs to do and goes out and gets it done. It amazes me, being that she is a sophomore. Anytime she has an off night – and she has a right to, because we are asking a lot of her – she steps up.”
But so did the Buckaroos’ middle blocker Kylie Owsley, the Northern 3A player of the year. Owsley changed the momentum of the match and helped Lowry turn a 6-1 deficit into a Buckaroos breakout as they went on a 14-5 run to take the fourth game.
“She (Owsley) is a lot stronger than she showed tonight,” Wade said. “We moved our rotation around a bit to match her with their big girl (Lommori).”
And it was Lommori and Owsley who went toe to toe in the early part of the deciding fifth game. After an Owsley kill drew the Buckaroos within 3-2, Lommori’s kill began a 6-0 run that made it 10-2 and sealed Lowry’s fate.
“I think in that fifth game they showed you that they refused to lose,” Aiazzi said of her team, which has four sophomores. “Our team has been saying it all year: They refuse to lose. They want it so bad that they do everything in their power to get it.”
Marraccini added three service aces, Tashina Conner contributed three blocks, two digs and one kill, and Bre Tognoli had eight digs for Yerington, which had a purple-and-white sea of loud fans show up at “The Cave” at Galena.
“They were our lifeline,” Aiazzi said of the Yerington faithful.
Aiazzi said she got only a cursory glimpse of Faith Lutheran, but said she felt confident in her team’s ability to win its first state championship today.
“I think we’re going to be fine,” Aiazzi said. “They (the Crusaders) seemed to struggle on the serve and we’re good on the serve. We’ll take that angle. They also like to tip a lot. We’ll cover that. I think we’re the hardest-hitting team in the 3A.”
Today the Lions will find out if they are the best team in the 3A.