Kelly O’Quinn admits the thought crossed her mind that Thursday would be the final time she would be on the bench for the Durango girls volleyball team.
But O’Quinn, who said she is retiring after coaching the boys volleyball team this spring, will have to stick around for at least one more match.
The Trailblazers overcame a 12-1 deficit in an epic second game and went on to sweep Centennial 25-23, 31-29, 25-12 in the semifinals of the Class 4A Sunset Region playoffs at Centennial. The win puts Durango, the defending state runner-up, into the region final against Bishop Gorman at 7 tonight at Centennial.
“I thought this would probably be my last match because collectively they are a better team than we are,” said O’Quinn, who began coaching with assistant Bob Kelly at the school when it opened in 1993. “It’s crazy. At the start of the season I didn’t even think we’d make the regional tournament. ... To me, all those hours we put into the team, it’s like it paid off.”
Senior Hayley Spelman led Durango (24-11), the No. 2 seed from the Southwest League, with 37 kills and 14 digs, and Morgan Malone dished out 37 assists.
Spelman, a Stanford recruit, had 14 of her kills as the Trailblazers won a see-saw first game. But it was Game 2 that proved to be the turning point.
Behind the strong serving of Morgan Vieira, Centennial (27-3) raced out to a 12-1 advantage and appeared to be in control. But after a Durango timeout, the Trailblazers mounted a huge comeback.
“I made some really stupid mistakes and I put the ball into the net, which I shouldn’t do,” Spelman said. “I knew that. I told myself I need to come back from this and control the game. I came back and said, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ ”
Durango was able to take a 20-19 lead and had four match points, but was unable to close it out. The Bulldogs, who went undefeated in the Northwest League, then had two match points of their own that went to waste thanks to service errors. Tied at 29-29, Jourdan Rowsell had a kill for Durango and a hitting error closed out the game.
“We never miss serves and we missed two chances to close out the game,” Centennial coach Shannon Alia said. “I don’t even have the words. It feels like a nightmare and I can’t wake up. I feel like I’m watching an ugly movie and I want to push rewind.”
With Centennial unable to recover from the emotional swing, Durango turned a 7-6 lead in the third game into a 21-9 advantage as Spelman had six kills.
“I truly feel if we won the (second) game we would have won the match,” Alia said. “My girls stopped working together as a team and that has been our strong point all season.”
Bishop Gorman 3, Palo Verde 2 — Dannielle Diamant finished with 24 kills and Liz Manthei had 46 assists as the Southwest champion Gaels (28-7) rallied in the final two games to upend the Panthers 25-22, 21-25, 18-25, 25-7, 15-12 in the Sunset semifinals.
Palo Verde’s passing was solid early, but the Panthers (24-11) struggled with receiving serves in Game 4 as Alexis Sanchez and Liz Lisowski combined for five aces for Gorman. After falling behind 6-1 in the deciding game, Palo Verde rallied to take an 11-9 lead only to see the Gaels’ serving take over again.
Gorman scored six of the final seven points, and Sanchez closed out the match with two consecutive aces.
“We really served a lot better the last two games,” Gaels coach Ed Van Meetren said. “I thought we passed fairly consistently well. The last couple of games improved where we were setting our hitters on the net instead of broken plays off the net.”
Nicole Gneiting led the Panthers with 17 kills. Tori Lounsbery had 25 assists to go with seven digs and two blocks.
Palo Verde rallied from a 16-11 deficit in the second game behind some strong serving from Ainsley Lovejoy and went ahead 22-15 on the way to winning the third game. But Gorman stormed out to a 9-1 lead in Game 4 and scored the final seven points of the game, all with Lisowski serving.
“We got jitters and we couldn’t serve receive,” Palo Verde coach Greg Siqueiros said. “Defensively we played the scrappiest we’ve played, but the passing issues we’ve had all year finally creeped back in.”