Pirates beat Crusaders in battle for first place in 3A Southern League

It was Senior Night on Tuesday for the Faith Lutheran girls volleyball team, but it was visiting Moapa Valley that made itself feel right at home.

The Pirates got a big lift from a raucous cheering section that included several members of Moapa Valley’s top-ranked Class 3A football team and knocked off the Crusaders 23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 25-19 in a battle for first place in the Southern League.

“When the girls saw the boys walk in it gave them a huge boost,” Pirates coach Matt Messer said. “Nobody asked them to come. It was a huge thing for them to come over.”

The teams split their regular-season matches, and each side expects a third meeting to occur in the Southern League tournament final.

Briane Olige led Moapa Valley (17-6, 4-1) with 16 kills, and Shelby Thompson added 13 kills.

But it was the Pirates’ defense that proved to be the biggest difference as Moapa Valley won every long rally and never let Faith Lutheran get into an offensive rhythm in the final three games. Libero Jessica Waite led the Pirates with 18 digs.

Kelsey McCourt led the Crusaders (19-12, 3-1) with 31 assists and 10 digs. Katy Trollier added 12 kills and 14 digs for Faith Lutheran.

“Defense is where they beat us,” Faith Lutheran coach Amy Fisher said. “I give complete credit to Moapa’s defense. They did a nice job picking up the balls.”

The football players from Moapa Valley arrived midway through the first game, which the Crusaders won, but after that it was all Moapa Valley.

The Pirates jumped to a 13-7 lead in Game 2 and led 21-16 after a tip by Olige before Faith Lutheran came back to tie the score at 23 when Trollier and McCourt combined on a big block against Thompson.

But Thompson had a big kill on the next point, and the Pirates closed it out when their defense kept the ball alive on a long rally and Faith Lutheran was whistled for a net violation.

In the third game, the Crusaders’ passing began to betray them as Moapa Valley opened a 14-9 advantage. The Pirates went up 20-15 on an ace by Caley Dunlap before Faith Lutheran closed the gap to 21-19 when Alex Treadwell put down a kill after a quick set from McCourt.

But Moapa Valley reeled off the next four points, including an ace from Sarah Hendrix and a kill by Britney Hughes off a quick set.

“One of the things we work on a lot is serving,” Messer said. “When we’re on, we are on. We are going to win a lot of matches if we can keep it under five or six (service errors).”

The Crusaders continued to struggle handling Moapa Valley’s serves in Game 4, and that was never more evident than when Hendrix served up two straight aces and Hughes slammed down a kill after a pass went too long to give the Pirates an 11-5 lead.

“Passing has been a struggle for us all year,” Fisher said. “Serve-receive has been a struggle, and it’s something we just continue to work on.”

The Crusaders got as close as 21-17, but Thompson made two heady plays by setting cross-court where no Faith Lutheran defenders were located. Hughes then won a joust to make it 24-19 and finished off the match with a kill after a quick set from Cydney Solomon.

“They came over there and beat us in five (games), 17-15 in the fifth game, on homecoming, and it was a bitter pill to swallow,” Messer said. “The girls were looking forward to getting another chance. It’s a big rivalry, so this is huge.”

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