Bishop Gorman girls volleyball coach Gregg Nunley said he’d be lying if he said the Gaels haven’t been thinking about winning a state championship.
While he doesn’t bring it up every day, Nunley said this year’s Gorman team has been focused since the beginning of the season on getting back to the state tournament after coming up short last season.
“This group of young women that we’ve got this year have decided that they are going to rise to the challenge and overcome adversity,” Nunley said. “They are bound and determined to accomplish some things this year that just got away from them last year.”
Gorman (32-5), the Southern Region champion, will face Reno High in a Class 5A state semifinal at 5:15 p.m. Friday at Sunrise Mountain. Coronado (22-8) will play Northern champion Spanish Springs in the other state semifinal at 7 p.m. The state title match is at noon Saturday.
The Gaels were swept by Coronado in last year’s Southern Region title match, then lost in five sets to Reno in a state semifinal. Coronado won the state title.
Gorman rolled through Southern Nevada competition this season — and its fair share of out-of-state competition — with arguably the most talented roster in the state, including senior outside hitter and Alabama commit Leilia Toailoa, senior libero Tatum Thompson and sophomore outside hitter Ayanna Watson.
Nunley said going through a grueling out-of-state schedule, which included a 2-0 loss to the No. 2 team in MaxPreps’ rankings, Mira Costa (California), has helped the Gaels handle the pressure of the postseason.
“It’s a really good way to get the kids focused on and grounded,” Nunley said. “To use that, and say we’ve seen the No. 2 team in America, this is what we did against them, and that’s going to work against any team that we play here in Nevada.”
Coronado lost to Gorman in four sets in Saturday’s region title match. First-year coach Melody Nua said that while she felt the Cougars weren’t as aggressive as they could be, some good came from the result.
“We grew a lot just from that loss,” Nua, a former UNLV volleyball standout and assistant coach, said. “I think that they needed to kind of feel that struggle a bit. We came into practice, and they’re just ready to go. They’re better for it.”
The Cougars return just two players from last year’s state title team. Nua credited senior setter Hannah Pemberton for helping the Cougars facilitate their systems with four of their five dominant hitters being sophomores.
Nua said she’s seen her young team’s volleyball IQ grow throughout the season. She said the Cougars will need to serve and pass well to control Friday’s semifinal and possibly set up a rematch with Gorman.
“We’re not a huge team,” Nua said. “A lot of things that we do, we have to just control the ball the best we can and keep it from hitting the floor, and make other guys make the error or continue to stop it with our defense.”
Class 5A girls volleyball state tournament
At Sunrise Mountain
(Regions: N=North, S=South)
Game 1: No. 2N Reno High vs. No. 1S Bishop Gorman, 5:15 p.m.
Game 2: No. 2S Coronado vs. No. 1N Spanish Springs, 7 p.m.
State title game
Game 3: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon
State tournament schedule for all classifications here