Gaels eye breakthrough

Gianna Ruggeroli knows all too well about obstacles.

The junior outside hitter has been a part of two consecutive Bishop Gorman girls volleyball squads that have reached the state tournament only to lose in the semifinals.

She’s counting on her third visit to be the one that allows the Gaels to overcome that hurdle and capture their first state championship.

“It would mean the world to me,” Ruggeroli said. “I don’t think the feeling of it is even explainable. I kind of think we’ve been looked at as the underdogs, and to just be able to win it and to show that our team isn’t just skillfully great, but mentally, would be great.”

Gorman (24-9) will face Spanish Springs at 6:20 p.m. Friday in the Division I semifinals at Galena High in Reno. Green Valley plays Bishop Manogue in the other semifinal at 8. The championship is set for 4 p.m. Saturday.

The Gaels have made nine state tournament appearances in the past 15 years, including each of the past three years, without a title.

Despite losing in last year’s semifinal, the experience at the state tournament proved beneficial to Ruggeroli and her teammates.

“I learned a lot, and I’ve learned the past few times we’ve went to state to not think of it as state and be under that kind of pressure,” she said. “There were definitely a lot of nerves and a lot tension.”

Gorman coach Ed Van Meetren said he plans to ease that stress by studying the tendencies of Spanish Springs.

“We’re going to watch film when we get up there Thursday night,” he said. “I know they attack primarily from the outside. We’re working our practices toward stopping that outside.”

While a matchup with an unfamiliar foe could cause concern, Gorman had an opportunity to watch the Cougars play in the Las Vegas Invitational.

“It’s definitely going to have a factor in it,” Van Meetren said. “We played them a couple years ago up in team camp in Reno, and they’re a solid group. We have some insight to them, and I know their coach pretty well. But it’s going to be a challenge.”

The Gaels will try to counter with a balanced scoring attack in the front and back rows, while using their size as an advantage. Gorman’s offense includes juniors 6-foot-4-inch Emma Kirst and 6-1 Francesca Manz.

“It’s the balance of the talent we have,” Van Meetren said. “There is no real glaring weakness. Our middle’s are a little bit undersized, but they make up for the lack of size with their quickness and smarts.”

Gorman captured the Sunset Region crown last weekend, winning nine of 10 sets.

“We really just stuck together last week and didn’t get down on ourselves,” junior opposite hitter Emma Filosi said. “Whenever we stay together and stay up the entire time, we’re unbeatable. So that’s what we need again.

“We have to be prepared for anything, and we can’t be too cocky, but we can’t be too scared. We have to just face them and do our best.”

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