Centennial’s girls volleyball team got off to a shaky 2-7 start a year ago before stumbling to a 10-21 record.
The Bulldogs opted for a different route out of the gates this season.
Despite losing 25-13, 25-17 to Ramona (Calif.) in the Gold Bracket semifinals on Saturday, Centennial finished the Las Vegas Invitational tied for third place and as the highest-placing Southern Nevada team.
“I let my kids know that we were the only Vegas team in the top four out of 36 teams,” eighth-year coach Shannon Alia said. “Considering the fact that we have three sophomores in the starting rotation, I think we’re doing really well. We’re a young team. And we’re off to a better start than last year.”
Centennial, which won its Saturday morning pool against Arbor View, Douglas and Silverado, ended the tournament with a 5-2 record. The Bulldogs’ only other loss was to Northwest League-rival Arbor View.
“I’m just glad the girls were able to fight all weekend,” Alia said. “Even in the last match against Ramona, they still fought. But that was obviously a tougher matchup. Player for player, they just outmatched us.”
Ramona wasted little time asserting its dominance in the semifinals, opening a double-digit lead in just minutes before taking the first set, 25-13.
Though Centennial didn’t fare much better in the second set, Alia got the chance to learn a little about her team under pressure.
Trailing 22-11, Alia called a timeout to offer some encouraging words and set a goal for the rest of the match.
“In the second timeout, I told them, ‘Let’s get 15 before they get 25,'” she said. “And my girls fought and got 17. It showed we could reach goals and push past them.”
Senior libero Kjersten Saunders finished with 14 digs and one kill in the match. She was selected to the all-tournament team.
Emily Anderson had five kills and five digs for Centennial, and teammate Kiana Falefitu added six blocks.
Faith Lutheran finished 10th in the tournament, and Arbor View tied for 11th. Both had their tournament run ended by Elsinore (Calif.).