Las Vegas High boys volleyball coach Sue Thurman stressed unity to her team all season long. In Friday’s Sunrise Region final against undefeated Coronado at Palo Verde, it paid off.
The Wildcats rolled from the start, beginning on a 6-1 run in the first game, and shocked the Cougars, 25-15, 25-23, 25-23, for Las Vegas’ first region title since 2005.
“We didn’t want to just show up to play tonight; we wanted to win,” said Thurman, who led the Wildcats to region-final losses to Coronado the past two years. “Coronado’s a great team with a great coaching staff and excellent players. We knew that we were going to have to be on top of our game tonight.”
Braeden Wilson led the Wildcats (19-2) with 18 kills and 17 digs, but it was Tyler Wilson who helped the team start strong in the first game, as he and middle hitter Chris Gbelay rattled off three kills apiece to take control early.
The start was surprising, considering Las Vegas had come off a 3-2 win against Silverado in the semifinals.
“We went to five our last (match), and we kind of just learned from that to come out big, come out strong, and just take care of our business,” said Tyler Wilson, who finished with eight kills and 14 digs.
Gbelay continued his strong form in the second game, notching two kills and two blocks on his way to five kills and three blocks on the night, and the Wildcats overcame a push from Chris Andrulis, who led Coronado (20-1) with 13 kills.
The Cougars beat Las Vegas 3-0 on March 17 in the Wildcats’ third match of the year.
“It just gave us a lot of fire to come back and beat them,” said setter Luke Hansen, who had 40 assists, five aces, three kills and three blocks.
Trevor Hardy added 11 kills for the Wildcats, and Matt Hagan had 11 digs to highlight a solid Las Vegas backcourt.
Hunter Chaney had 26 assists and three kills as he tried to keep the Cougars close, even diving headfirst into the scorer’s table for a loose ball. Jordan Osmundson put up five blocks for Coronado, which hadn’t lost a game since April 29.
Centennial senior Matt Kurtz has struggled with a shoulder injury and, by his own admission, hasn’t played well through the final half of the season.
It appears his troubles are behind him.
Kurtz threw down 19 kills to lead the Bulldogs to a 20-25, 25-14, 25-19, 25-18 upset over Northwest League champion Shadow Ridge in Friday’s Sunset Region title match at Palo Verde.
“We definitely started off a little slower,” Kurtz said. “We really know how Shadow plays. We’re definitely a team that adapts to a team’s playing style throughout the game, and I think we did that really well.”
Kurtz left Centennial’s semifinal match against Bonanza early Thursday, but his replacement, McKay Holley, performed well in his stead. On Friday, the team captain knew he wouldn’t have that luxury.
“The kid who replaced me was sick today, and I’ve been struggling with a shoulder injury, so it was really nice to come back and play a pretty good game,” Kurtz said. “I haven’t played real good in a while, so it feels good to come out in a regional final and do what we got to do to get it done.”
Leo Durkin had 50 assists and 10 kills for the Bulldogs (15-2) while frustrating the Mustangs defense all night, as he would tap the ball over the net for an easy kill.
“When a pass is on the net, I jump up, and if I don’t see that guy jumping with me, I got him beat, and I throw it down,” said Durkin, who learned the move from his club team. “That’s how it goes, normally.”
Shadow Ridge (19-2) jumped to an early lead thanks to Taylor Lancaster’s four kills in the first game, while a balanced Mustangs attack also led to two kills each from Zach Hafen, Jake Shea, Thomas Rowan and Joe Pearson.
“We kind of came in nervous in that first game, but then we got that nervousness out and came out strong from the second,” Durkin said.
The senior setter helped his team rebound with four kills in the second game, and Cameron Olsen added four of his 13 kills in the third game to Kurtz’s seven late kills, to help the Bulldogs take control.
Tyler Rogers notched 10 kills and three blocks, including the match-winner, for Centennial. Ryan Ramin added six blocks for the Bulldogs.
Jeremy Makaiwi had 30 assists and two aces for Shadow Ridge, and Lancaster and Shea added eight kills apiece. Hafen finished with six kills, and Rowan had five kills and two blocks for the Mustangs.
Shadow Ridge will play Sunrise Region champion Las Vegas at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Palo Verde in a state semifinal match, and Centennial will face Sunrise runner-up Coronado at 7.In-depth high school sports coverage