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Durango, Bishop Gorman advance to state title match

According to several officials at Durango High School, there hasn’t been a banner hung in the gymnasium in more than 11 years.

Thanks to Durango’s 71-minute effort against Palo Verde, that streak is over.

The Trailblazers used their frontline to wear down Palo Verde 25-16, 25-17, 25-20 in the semifinals of the state girls volleyball tournament Friday at Faith Lutheran.

Durango now has a chance to embroider champion on that banner, as the Trailblazers face Bishop Gorman, a 3-0 winner over Reno that snapped the Huskies 16-game winning streak, in the final at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I simply can’t put into words what this means to our program,” said Durango coach Amy Schlauder, a Trailblazer alum. “Its been a long time since we hung a banner, in any sport. The girls have worked so hard and they just get better and better with each match.”

Durango and Bishop Gorman have met twice this season. The Trailblazers won in four sets during the regular season, with the Gaels responding with a five-set win in the Desert Region championship match.

Schlauder had some worries about her team’s energy heading into Friday’s match, as Durango had to out of a two-set hole Thursday in the quarterfinals against Bishop Manogue.

But clearly the Trailblazers (34-7) were the fresher team against the Panthers, as Palo only had the led just twice in the three sets.

The duo of Kennedi Steele and Jacquelyn Robinson dominated the opening set with four kills each. When the outside hitters were on their game, the middle opened, and Durango’s Bailey Olbur took complete advantage. Olbur’s three kills to close the opening set helped Durango gain early confidence.

Durango score six of the first eight points in the second set, and the Trailblazers were in control.

“They kept their composure, regardless of the score,” Schlauder said. “It was a total team effort. Everyone played well. Our front line was huge, they made play after play.”

The Panthers (31-4), winners of 15 straight matches coming into the semifinals, pulled to within 14-12 but scored just five points the rest of the second set to fall into an 0-2 hole.

Durango put the exclamation point on the victory in the third set, as Sophia Dominguez opened with four consecutive service winners, and the Trailblazers rolled from there.

“All the credit goes to Durango. We just didn’t play well,” said Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke, whose team committed 10 service errors. “It just seems like we couldn’t get out of the blocks tonight. “

Arien Fafard had 16 assists, eight digs and five kills for the Panthers. Carli Tanner added 10 kills and three aces, followed by Alexandria Anderson-Smith with 10 digs.

Robinson and Olbur combined for 18 kills for Durango, while senior Anuhea Faitau had 29 assists and seven digs. Dominguez added 13 digs, six aces and three kills for the Trailblazers.

Bishop Gorman 3, Reno 0 — In the nightcap, the Gaels got 20 kills and 12 digs from senior Tommi Stockham and they cruised 25-20, 25-19, 25-19.

It took Gorman just 59 minutes to down the Huskies.

“When we check our boxes and each player does their role, we are very tough to play,” Bishop Gorman coach Gregg Nunley said. “Tonight we kept points alive, and you get opportunities when you keep ball in play. Step by step, we continue to improve, and now we are in the final.”

Taylor Jefferson added 18 digs for the Gaels (33-7), winners of 10 straight heading into Saturday’s final. Sophomore Caroline Edgeworth had 43 assists for Bishop Gorman.

Reno (22-4) was led by Rian Finley with 21 assists and Abigal Leif with 13 digs. Katelyn Garnett added nine kills and Lindsey Biggs three aces for the Huskies.

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