Palo Verde advances to state volleyball tournament

Palo Verde’s girls volleyball team found itself needing to clear one final hurdle Friday in order to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in nine years.

That hurdle was Bishop Gorman, which had won four straight region titles.

Loaded with emotion from the opening serve, the Panthers used a team effort in knocking off the Gaels, 25-17, 25-19, 12-25, 25-23 in the Sunset Region final at Legacy.

Palo Verde (34-4) advances to the state tournament, which begins next Friday at Green Valley. Gorman (28-8) will face Green Valley-Coronado in a play-in match for the final state berth at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Green Valley.

“I can’t believe we did it. What a great feeling this is,” said Palo Verde’s Kendal Cheval, who had four of the final five kills in the final set. “It’s great to beat our main rival in a setting like this. Getting to state has been the goal for us all season long.”

Palo Verde came out of the gate on fire, using a six-point spurt to gain control. The Panthers led by as much as 11 in the opening set before taking the eight-point win.

“The key was to come out playing well, and that’s what we did,” said Palo Verde coach Greg Siqueiros. “We wanted to play hard on each and every point and not give them easy points. We had some adversity during the match, and momentum swung many times, but we made the plays when we needed them.”

The second set was a carbon copy of the first, as Palo Verde used an early run to take control. The Panthers had kills from Lexi Riggs and McCall Phillips to gain an 8-1 edge.

Gorman refused to go away quietly, as the Gaels got a huge effort from seniors Gianna Ruggeroli and Emma Kirst to win the third set.

With the final set knotted at 20-20, Cheval took over with a variety of kills, including a pair of short taps to give the Panthers the title.

“We wanted to stay humble, and just play our game,” said Cheval. “We didn’t want to get too cocky and not play our game.”

Stephanie Herman had 43 assists, 15 digs and three kills for the Panthers, and Riggs added 16 digs. Phillips had 12 kills and nine digs, with Cheval adding 10 kills and 17 digs. Faryn Duncan had 27 digs, and Jenna Bobroski added 20 digs for Palo Verde.

Emma Filosi had 30 assists for Gorman. Ruggeroli had two aces, 10 kills, eight digs and two blocks. Emma Kirst had eight digs and two blocks, and teammate Francesca Manz finished with seven kills and eight digs.

No matter what it tried over the years, the Coronado girls volleyball team had been unable to find the kryptonite for Green Valley.

Until this season.

Cali Thompson stuffed the stat sheet with 38 assists, two kills, four aces and four blocks, and Coronado dismantled the four-time defending champion Gators 25-18, 25-11, 25-23 on Friday in the Division I Sunrise Region title game at Legacy.

It is the first region title since 2005 for the Cougars (29-6), who advance to next week’s state tournament at Green Valley.

“We’ve always been hanging around and couldn’t get over the Green Valley hump,” Coronado coach Matt Johnson said. “We knew this year we could get it done. It all kind of came together.”

Green Valley (27-8) will host Sunset Region runner-up Bishop Gorman at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday in a state play-in game.

The Gators owned the rivalry recently, winning six straight. But Coronado earned a 3-1 victory on Oct. 14 and was even more dominant this time.

Berkeley Oblad led the Cougars with 11 kills, Nikki Jackson finished with eight kills as Coronado’s middle blockers were especially effective. Teammate Brooke Garlick also had eight kills.

Nikki Drost led Green Valley with 18 kills to go along with seven digs, and Alley Seidler handed out 21 assists, but the Gators were unable to find much offense until late in the third set.

Coronado used a 7-0 run early in the first set to take control and jumped out to a 12-4 advantage in the second set as Thompson ended a long rally with a quick tip shot. Garlick then sparked a 5-0 run late in the set to help put it away.

In the third set, two aces by Thompson helped the Cougars snag a 16-8 lead before Green Valley rallied. Shanna Olsen had one of her six kills to cut Coronado’s lead to 23-19, but after the Gators staved off four match points, Carolyn Andrulis powered a kill through the block of Julia Carlson and Seidler for the match winner.

The last time Faith Lutheran’s girls volleyball team lost a set to a team from Nevada was Sept. 25 against Palo Verde.

But when Boulder City took a 20-19 lead in the third set on Friday, Crusaders coach Amy Fisher wasn’t thinking about her team’s impressive streak. She was more concerned with not letting the Eagles back into the match.

“I knew if we didn’t win that (set), it would give Boulder momentum to get their flow going, which they started to do in the third game,” Fisher said. “I was a little on edge. But I knew if we got up by two points in the 20s, I knew we would be able to close it out.”

As it turned out, Fisher had nothing to worry about.

Cayla Nikodemus had 16 kills and 13 digs, and Courtney Hansen added 13 kills as Faith Lutheran swept Boulder City 25-12, 25-15, 25-23 in the Division I-A Southern Region tournament final at Legacy.

It is the second straight region title for the Crusaders (25-12), who enter next week’s Division I-A state tournament at Green Valley having won 39 straight sets against in-state competition and 18 of their past 19 matches overall.

Boulder City (22-10) also advanced to the state tournament.

Megan Panikkar finished with 19 assists and three aces, and Megan Kronschnabel chipped in with 15 assists for Faith Lutheran, which used a 10-1 run in the first set to take control.

Hansen then had eight kills in the second set and sparked a key 5-0 run midway through that put the Crusaders ahead by seven points.

Whitney Barlow put away 20 kills to lead the Eagles. Kendall Miller handed out 31 assists, and Alyssa Ybarra notched 16 digs for Boulder City, which struggled to pass the ball early on but settled down in the third set.