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SUNRISE VOLLEYBALL: Home crowd helps Wildcats to semifinal win

Playing at home in any sport has shown its advantages since the dawn of athletic competition.

For Las Vegas High’s boys volleyball team, “Wildcat Nation” delivered an added boost on Thursday.

Behind a boisterous crowd and student section, the host Wildcats won a 25-20, 18-25, 25-16, 23-25, 15-13 match over Coronado in a back-and-forth Sunrise Region semifinal. It was the second five-set win in three days for Las Vegas (13-10), which hosts Foothill (23-16) at 5 p.m. Friday in the region final.

The teams split a pair of regular-season meetings.

“Our school is behind everything,” first-year coach Justin Graham said. “Our principal, our administration, our kids. That’s how it is with every sport. There’s just so much support.”

After alternating the first three sets on Thursday, Las Vegas nearly closed it out in the fourth set but Coronado’s huge front line had other plans.

Karriem Beyah, a 6-foot-8-inch outside hitter, and Trey Hunter, a 6-4 middle blocker, helped the Cougars hold off a late Las Vegas rally by getting the last two points of the set on kills for a 25-23 win.

“(Their size) was rough,” Graham said. “A lot of (our success) was from serving tough and trying to keep them out of system. When they’re in system, there’s not much we could do but play tremendous defense. And we played tremendous defense.”

The Cougars, who led 18-13 in the set, allowed the Wildcats to pull within 23-21.

Las Vegas sophomore Brandon Kampshoff, who finished with a team-high 17 kills, put down a kill in the far right corner that appeared to be out at first glance. But with the crowd chanting, ‘Brandon, Brandon, Brandon,’ the back judge ruled in the home team’s favor.

Those chants served as a preview for the fifth set, as the Wildcat faithful jumped to their feet and cheered from right outside the baseline.

“It was very big,” said senior libero Antonio Wong, who finished with 18 digs. “Without them, we wouldn’t be here right now.”

The Wildcats overcame nine ties and five lead changes in the fifth set to pull out the win.

Mark Gil Gacutan found an open space for the match-winning kill in the fifth set.

“These kids have worked their butts off,” Graham said. “Every one of them has so much heart and drive to just compete and be here. They’ve been working since August to get to this point.

“I don’t think most of the teams in this city saw us getting to this point necessarily.”

Junior outside hitter Ryan Magante, who led Las Vegas with 16 kills, three aces and nine digs, said the atmosphere was one of the best he’s been a part of.

“They always come out here and support us every year,” he said. “So it’s great having them because they keep us in it all the time. … It was a really crazy game. We just kept our heads in it. We came out really strong and believed in ourselves from all the hard work that we’ve put in the gym.”

Royce Reyes had four kills and 23 assists, and Luis Wong added 32 assists for Las Vegas.

Coronado’s Beyah finished with 23 kills, six digs, four blocks, and Samuel Cox had 49 assists, 11 digs and two kills. Matt Johnson (seven kills, six digs, four blocks), Travis Little (six kills, 10 digs) and Cole Gerrard (15 digs) also contributed for the Cougars (22-16).

Foothill 3, Liberty 0 — Shilo Chow had 29 assists, three kills, two aces and two blocks, and Colin Curi added 13 kills to lead the Falcons to a 25-18, 25-20, 25-19 sweep of the Patriots.

Zachary Thompson contributed six kills and four blocks, and Branson Diaz had five kills and four blocks for Foothill, which will be looking for its first region championship on Friday.

“I’ve always believed in my guys,” Foothill coach Chris Sisson said. “I feel like they’re believing in themselves now. You could really see that in how they played tonight. The team chemistry is really starting to come along right now.”

Brandon Baliza led Liberty with seven kills. Ryan Taggert added three kills, and Brycen Ivester had 13 assists for the Patriots (14-13).

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