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Desert Region: Coronado clips Durango in five-set thriller

Coronado girls volleyball coach Matt Johnson jokingly told his players Thursday evening that he nearly had a heart attack during their Desert Region match against Durango

He’s alive and well. And his team is, too.

The host Cougars, trailing 12-8 in the decisive fifth set, rattled off seven consecutive points and eked out a 20-25, 25-21, 15-25, 25-17, 15-12 victory over the Trailblazers. Coronado advanced to the Desert Region championship against Bishop Gorman.

Coronado (26-9), as a region finalist, advances to Class 4A state tournament for the fifth time in the last six seasons.

The Trailblazers finish 26-6 for their winningest season since 2008, and three points away from their first state appearance in a decade.

“Those last five points were just like an adrenaline rush for my whole team,” Cougars hitter Sasha Bolla said. “We were on such a high and I’m so glad that we were together. We want it so bad, and I’m so glad we’re at this point right now.”

Durango and Coronado traded the first four sets to set up the epic finale before an enthused crowd. The Trailblazers capitalized on a couple unforced errors and to build their lead, prompting a timeout from Johnson.

“I just told them it’s not about strategy or anything like that,” he said. “‘When the ball comes to you, just make the best contact that you can.’ And they did.”

Bolla conceded that she felt a sense of desperation at that point in the match, but didn’t reveal that to her team. She instead rattled off a series of service points to set the stage for Coronado’s comeback.

“This isn’t the end, it’s ‘We can do this,’” said Bolla, who finished with 31 kills and 14 digs. “The momentum we have today will drive us (Friday).”

Bishop Gorman 3, Liberty 0 — At Coronado, Angelina Starck had six kills, 17 assists and five aces to help the Gaels to a 25-7, 25-8, 25-13 win over the Patriots.

Tommi Stockham had 13 kills and eight digs for the Gaels, who return to the Class 4A state tournament.

Leahi Sefo had six kills and three blocks for Liberty, which finishes 10-16.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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