Green Valley boys rally for Las Vegas Classic title

Bouncing back from a tournament loss sometimes takes a motivating speech, a hearty rally cry or an inspirational message.

Green Valley’s boys volleyball team needed only a reminder of its next opponent.

The Gators bounced back from a loss to Las Vegas High to sweep Coronado 25-19, 25-23 and win the title at the Las Vegas Classic at Green Valley.

Green Valley and Coronado finished the seven-team, round-robin tournament at 5-1, with the Gators taking first on a head-to-head tiebreaker.

“It was basically that we wanted to go out and play our game,” said Green Valley team captain Beau Gronert, who had eight kills, three blocks and two aces in the title match. “We wanted to play at the high level that we know we can and be consistent.”

Gronert tallied 14 kills and two blocks in against the Wildcats, who won, 25-22, 12-25, 15-9. Las Vegas finished 4-2, followed by Shadow Ridge and Sierra Vista, which both went 3-3.

But knowing Southeast League rival Coronado was waiting in the final match of the tournament was all the motivation Green Valley (3-3, 1-1 Southeast League) needed to put on a strong finish.

“I didn’t have to mention much; it was Coronado,” Green Valley coach Kevin Barney said. “I don’t know how many years it’s been since we’ve been able to beat Coronado.

“This isn’t a league game, just a tournament game, but it’s still been years since we could do that. I think to them, it meant more than just a little tournament game.

“I’ve got a great bunch of kids that work hard together. They’re learning to be a team, and this was definitely a step in the right direction. Hopefully a signal of better things to do.”

The Gators opened the first set on a 6-0 run, and setter Nick Hevrin spread seven assists among four players to fuel a balanced attack.

Hevrin, who finished with 17 assists and two aces, consistently found different players to keep the Cougars (4-2, 2-0) from keying on one individual.

“I think they learned how to win by working together on the court,” Barney said. “Coaches talk way too much sometimes, but in reality, what matters is what the kids can do together.

“No matter what I say, this is what makes it click.”

Green Valley went ahead 4-1 in the second game and then used a 9-2 run to take a 14-9 lead.

But Coronado standout Chris Andrulis took over, scoring five of his team’s nine points during a 9-4 run that saw the Cougars go up 19-17.

Back-to-back kills by Gronert pulled the Gators even at 19, and a block by the senior hitter gave Green Valley a lead it didn’t relinquish.

“When we play, it’s all about playing,” Gronert said of matches with Coronado. “I hope there’s no hesitation for us. Each game is important to us personally.

“Even if this doesn’t go on the record, this is a big win for us and our school.”

Andrulis finished with nine kills and three blocks, and Byrin Romney dished out 10 assists for the Cougars. Jahren Makanoa had six kills for Coronado.

“It’s huge for our confidence,” Barney said of the Gators’ 5-1 finish. “They need to know that they can play with the best teams in Vegas, and I really think when we’re playing together, we can play with them.

“I wasn’t sure until this tournament that they really believed that.”