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4A Sunset: Palo Verde rallies from two-set deficit, stuns Centennial

Next girl up.

That’s the motto Palo Verde’s girls volleyball team has lived by this season, particularly the last few weeks when Panthers players have dropped like flies to injuries and sicknesses.

“We have crutches, we have boots, my meniscus is torn,” sophomore setter Arien Fafard said. “Girls are sick. This season has been up and down, but we’re working hard. I’m really proud of my team.”

Down a pair of starters Tuesday night, the resilient Panthers found a way to rally from a two-set deficit to stun Centennial, 21-25, 22-25, 25-14, 25-23, 15-8 in a Class 4A Sunset Region quarterfinal at Bishop Gorman.

Third-seeded Palo Verde (22-14) will meet No. 1 Gorman (27-10) in a region semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday at Durango. The Gaels have won both meetings this season.

Fafard missed significant time this season with a torn meniscus but played a big role in the Panthers’ rally Tuesday night. She finished with 30 assists and seven digs, and was key in finding outside hitters Aaliah Largusa (15 kills, nine digs) and Carli Tanner (10 kills, 12 digs) in the later sets, including the decisive fifth when Palo Verde stormed to a 10-4 lead.

“In the beginning it was a little bit rough,” Fafard said. “We didn’t come out as strong as we normally do. But then after we realized, ‘This is not going to be our last game,’ and it finally clicked, we got it back.”

After the teams started the fifth set with three ties, Palo Verde went on a 6-0 run and powered through two Centennial timeouts. Tanner and Jacquelyn Fields each put down a pair of kills — assisted by Fafard — in the fifth, and Tanner’s kill just inside the left sideline was the match’s final point.

“I can’t remember too many errors (in the fifth set),” said Palo Verde coach Phil Clarke, whose team defeated Centennial in four sets last week. “We were scrappy. You can’t get those kind of leads if you can’t get your serves in. I thought our serving got better as it went on”

Palo Verde was without would-be starters Alyssa Hewitt and Mia Sadler, who both sat because of season-ending injuries sustained in recent weeks.

“We work hard for our teammates,” Fafard said. “That’s the thing. When someone’s down, we pick them up. If someone else knocks down we’re (like), ‘We’ve got to pick them up again.’ … the injuries make us stronger and better as a whole.”

Siara Roberts led Centennial (20-13) with four kills, 40 assists, eight digs and two blocks.

Emily Anderson had 12 kills, four aces and 20 digs, Natalie Starlin added 10 kills, one ace, 19 digs and one block, and Anyese James-Kirkland notched eight kills and two blocks for the Bulldogs, who also got contributions from Kara Combs (eight kills, five digs) and Kylie Saunders (two aces, 21 digs).

Bishop Gorman 3, Arbor View 0 — At Gorman, Lilly Hoff dished out 35 assists to power the Gaels to a 25-11, 25-14, 25-12 sweep of the Aggies in the Sunset Region quarterfinals.

Tommi Stockham had 15 kills, and teammate Natalie Mavroidis supplied 11 digs and three aces for Gorman, which got seven kills from Angelina Starck.

Makayla Snyder led Arbor View (14-14) with three kills and three digs, and Bailey Olbur had two kills and three blocks.

Shadow Ridge 3, Sierra Vista 0 — At Shadow Ridge, Whittnee Nihipali had 14 kills and 15 digs as the Mustangs took down the Mountain Lions in the Sunset Region quarterfinals, 25-17, 27-25, 25-18.

Autumn Spendlove had 20 assists and nine digs, Madyson Louisgnont had 10 kills and eight digs and Alysha Smith had 15 assists, six digs, four kills and three aces for the Mustangs (27-10), who will travel to Durango (24-11) for a Sunset Region semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Shantalle Demirjian had nine kills, three digs and an ace for Sierra Vista (17-15). Audrey Dayton had seven kills, two digs and an ace, and Alexys Nassiri had five digs, two assists and two aces for the Mountain Lions.

Durango 3, Legacy 0 — At Shadow Ridge, Naomi Harris’ 12 kills powered the Trailblazers to a 25-21, 25-19, 25-15 victory in the Sunset Region quarterfinals.

Tehani Faitau had 18 assists and four aces, Sierra Leone Sanchez had 16 digs, and Jaquelyn Robinson had nine kills for Durango.

Myah Maxwell had nine kills and five digs for the Longhorns (28-9-1), Kiana Carter had had six kills and 15 digs, and Jazmyne Walker had seven kills and nine digs. Legacy’s Alyssa Fuller added 20 digs.

Contact reporter Ashton Ferguson at aferguson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0430. Follow @af_ferguson on Twitter.

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