Las Vegas High’s boys volleyball team has won two consecutive Sunrise Region titles and is coming off an 8-0 record in Northeast League play this season.
The Wildcats, however, still appear to be entering this year’s region tournament under the radar.
“I’ve been in the program 13 years and it’s kind of always how it is,” coach Justin Graham said.
Las Vegas (26-12), the Northeast League’s No. 1 seed, hosts fourth-seeded Basic (9-10) at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the quarterfinals of the Sunrise Region tournament. The Wildcats are seeking a third consecutive state tournament appearance.
“Teams just underestimate us because of our height,” junior outside hitter Brandon Kampshoff said. “But I feel like we make up for it. Even though we have a small team, we’re very smart. We get around on the court. We’re good passers. Everybody does a really good job of getting stuff done on the court.”
One of the biggest knocks on Las Vegas is it competes in one of the weakest divisions in Southern Nevada. But the Wildcats are 31-5 in league play over the past four seasons, and continue to play in out-of-state tournaments each year to prepare themselves for the postseason.
“People look down on our division a lot,” Graham said. “Valley (and) Silverado are better than people think. But everybody looks at it like, ‘That’s what they should do.’
“These kids are just as hungry as every other team we’ve had. They’ve got older brothers with banners on the wall and they want to go get their own.”
Kampshoff, who averages 3.4 kills per set, is the team’s biggest hitter on the outside and will be an important factor should the Wildcats advance.
“There’s never a day where I think Brandon has to work harder in the gym,” Graham said. “He’s always working. He’s always there for his team.”
Seniors Ronell Sueno and Luis Wong are the team captains. The versatile Wong, a 5-foot-6½ inch setter, epitomizes the team’s hard-working, never-give-up mentality.
“We never give up on any point,” said Wong, who averages 9.1 assists per set. “We try our hardest every point and never let anything drop without trying.”
Heading into the region tournament, the Wildcats have won 10 out of their last 11 matches — the loss was to Arbor View — and are 8-1 at home this season.
“We’re feeling confident as a team,” Wong said. “We handle our ball control. We get better with it every day. We just need to work hard and focus on our game. Everything that’s happened before May just goes away. As a team, we just need to contribute and do our part.”
Las Vegas, which lost to eventual state champion Palo Verde in four sets in the state semifinals last season, is seeking its first state championship since 2008. The Wildcats were state runner-ups in 2014.
“If we connect as a team then anything is possible,” Kampshoff said.
Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0430. Follow him on Twitter: @af_ferguson