Mustangs hope Christensen’s injury won’t block them

To reach its goal of state, the Shadow Ridge girls volleyball team will have to get through the Sunset regional tournament, which starts today at Legacy.

But they’ll have to do it without a key player.

The Mustangs’ state title hopes took a major blow when starting middle blocker Dana Christensen went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament against Palo Verde on Oct. 23.

Losing the senior meant Shadow Ridge (18-11, 8-2 Northwest) would have to quickly make adjustments to keep its goals intact. Coach Karissa Guthrie said the girls have done just that.

“The girls have really been rallying around her,” Guthrie said. “And they’ve been playing some of the best volleyball all season. “We’re feeling really good. The girls are working really hard. We’ve had the same goal since the beginning of the season and it hasn’t changed. Get to playoffs, get to state.”

Shadow Ridge will meet a familiar foe in No. 3-seeded Bonanza (13-14, 6-4 Southwest) at 2 p.m today to open the tournament. The Sunrise Region tournament begins at 2 p.m. at Green Valley, and the Division I-A Southern Region tournament starts at 2 p.m. at Chaparral.

Shadow Ridge and Bonanza met in last year’s quarterfinals, with Shadow Ridge advancing 3-1. This year, they met in the season-opening Las Vegas Invitational tournament (Bonanza won 2-0), so Guthrie knows what to expect.

“They’re definitely a familiar team to us,” she said. “They always seem to put up a really good block. We’ve been working on different shots and want to hit it high off their hands. The biggest thing is having our hitters find those holes.”

Heading into the playoffs, the Shadow Ridge girls have been getting help in practice from members of the boys team, which has appeared in the state tournament three out of the past four years.

“We have the boys out there every day helping us,” Guthrie said. “They have that mindset of being a champion already, so it’s nice to see that rub off on our girls. Sometimes the boys are the hardest workers out there in (our) practice.

“I think it definitely helps us. Our girls do a great job of really emulating those boys.”

If the Mustangs want to advance, they’ll need hefty production out of top players Ashley Smith and Olivia Denny.

“We need both of them to be on their game to be successful,” Guthrie said. “She (Olivia Denny), in particular, has done a good job of making it known she is the leader. Ashley is starting to come out of her shell. She’s kind of a silent, but deadly player on the court. When she gets hot, it’s hard for anyone to stop her. She’s a special player.”

Guthrie can’t wait for the Sunset tournament to get under way. Depending on how her team executes, she believes her girls can go far.

“I’m super excited,” she said. “My coaching staff has worked really hard and we’re ready. I think for our girls, it just comes down to taking care of the ball on our side of the court. Nothing has been different in practice.

“We’re just trying to get the finishing fine touches. The goal is to be there that following weekend.”

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