4A CHAMPIONSHIP: Richard’s pep talk, offensive push leads Silverado to title

At the Skyhawks’ lowest point of the season, Silverado’s Taylor Richard gathered her teammates and held what she called “a team talk.”

That happened last Friday night after the Skyhawks lost the Sunrise Region title game to Green Valley. Silverado fell into a do-or-die Monday play-in game for a berth to the Class 4A state tournament. Richard, Silverado’s star senior outside hitter, told her teammates they weren’t talking on the court and lacked the strong chemistry of which she spoke so highly before the season began.

Richard’s heart-to-heart chat straightened out the Skyhawks, who fulfilled lofty expectations Saturday on their home court by defeating the Gators, 22-25, 25-12, 25-14, 25-20, to win their second state championship in the past three years.

Starting with that play-in game against Palo Verde, Richard could feel a renewed spirit in the Silverado squad.

“We got so much of our energy back,” Richard said.

Silverado coach Jenn Boeddeker said having to play its way into state also helped to wake up a squad who middle blocker Kaitlyn Keathley called “the team to beat” in the preseason.

“The regional match gave us a chance to refocus and remember what we pushed so hard for,” Boeddeker said. “When you work toward a common goal and someone starts to take that away from you, you fight for it.”

Reaching that goal looked tenuous early against the Gators, who rode another hitting show by Siga Appelgate to an opening-game victory. Rather than tighten up like they did against Green Valley last week, the Skyhawks joked around and stayed loose before the second game.

They carried that attitude onto the court, and Richard put it into action with four kills and a strong defensive performance. Richard blasted an outside set through a triple block to extend Silverado’s lead to 20-7 and the Skyhawks easily took the second game.

Richard recorded 19 kills to pace the Skyhawks. Freshman Kayla Agae notched seven kills and Marilyn Agae dished out 30 assists.

“In game two, we lacked the intensity that we need and it cost us,” Green Valley coach Erin Hill said. “Silverado was on their game tonight.”

Appelgate came out blasting with five kills in the third game, but the Gators struggled the keep their serves and Silverado forced many Green Valley errors to win that one as well.

“We were refusing to lose,” Richard said. “We weren’t going to lose. We had so much heart and it showed out there the last three games.”

Boeddeker credited Richard’s growth as a team leader this year for helping Silverado through its roughest spots.

“Because of her leadership and her resolve to keep the girls on track, that’s why we’re here,” Boeddeker said.

Appelgate finished with 26 kills and Jena Chavez tallied 29 assists for Green Valley.

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