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SMALL SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL: Panthers move into 21st straight state final

Pahranagat Valley’s girls volleyball team seems to live in the state championship match.

On Friday, the Panthers made sure they wouldn’t have to give up residence.

Madison Harris had 11 kills and seven aces to lead Pahranagat Valley to a 25-13, 25-13, 27-25 victory over Owyhee in the Division IV state semifinals at Foothill. The Panthers earned a rematch with Smith Valley in the title match at 12:15 p.m. today at Foothill.

“When we go into preseason, our first goal was to get to state, get to the championship game,” Pahranagat Valley coach Ginger Whipple said. “So that’s what we work hard to do.”

Pahranagat Valley (25-6) now has advanced to 21 consecutive state finals, and has won the last two.

Owyhee (8-3) struggled receiving serve to start the match, and the Panthers took advantage. Gracie Carter had aces on six of her first seven serves as Pahranagat Valley took control early.

“I was happy to see they were struggling with their passes,” Whipple said. “That’s our best server as far as difficulty to pass. That’s what we’ve been working on at the end of the season, trying to get a team not to be able to set up their offense. That’s our goal.”

The Panthers achieved that goal until late in the third set when Owyhee got its offense going. The Braves’ offense consisted almost exclusively of setting 6-foot-2-inch middle blocker Kaira Egan. Egan had three kills during an 8-0 run that gave Owyhee a set point at 24-23.

“You can see they’re scrappy, but if they get a couple set lead, they do just what you saw today,” Whipple said. “And it’s really hard on an old lady.”

But Harris got a kill to end the run, and Karley Whipple was able to end the match with a big swing down the line.

“I was really happy with Maddie Harris,” Whipple said. “She was aggressive. She did a great job today.”

Whipple had eight kills, and Carter had seven kills for Pahranagat Valley. Allyse Freher added 19 assists and three aces for the Panthers.

Egan had nine kills for the Braves.

Smith Valley 3, Beatty 0 — Kellie Rogaczewski had 15 kills and three blocks as the Bulldogs swept the Hornets, 25-14, 25-10, 25-15 in the other semifinal.

Tonia Covarrubias added four kills and 13 assists, and Mattie Johns had three kills and 18 assists for Smith Valley (31-2-2).

Vanessa Gamboa had five kills, and Alexia Gil dished out eight assists for the Hornets (13-7).

DIVISION III

Losing nine seniors to graduation in any sport usually translates to a down year for most programs.

That wasn’t the case for The Meadows girls volleyball team.

Despite losing half their team and getting a new head coach, the Mustangs were able to exceed expectations this season and reach the Division III state tournament for the second consecutive year.

But their improbable run came to an end Friday after a 25-17, 25-13, 25-19 loss to defending state champion Yerington in the state semifinals.

Yerington (28-12) will face Incline (13-6) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Foothill in the final.

“It says a lot about these girls and their dedication and mental toughness to even get this far,” first-year Mustangs coach Nicki King said. “This was huge for these girls to play in a big tournament like this.”

With just two seniors and seven underclassmen on its roster, The Meadows put up a much stronger fight than a sweep might suggest.

“I expect nothing but success for these girls,” King said. “It’s almost like a freak of nature that these (freshman-sophomore) classes are so close together.”

Freshman Dani Mason, who finished with seven kills, nine digs, four blocks, led the way for the Mustangs on Friday. It still wasn’t enough, though, to dethrone the Lions.

“She’s really stepped it up and has been a leader on the court all year,” King said of Mason. “For her to get the experience and court time (in the state playoffs) is only going to make her that much better.”

Mason helped The Meadows grab an early 4-0 lead and momentum in the opening set by serving the first of her four aces.

But Yerington would come back to tie the set at 11 and grab its first lead at 15-14 because of the strong play of outside hitter Kassidy Lommori, who was the match’s most dominant player.

“(Lommori) was legit. We’ve got to give our hats off to her,” King said. “She was going to get her good swings.”

Lommori, a 5-foot-11-inch senior, sparked a run in the opening set that ended up derailing the Mustangs. She put down a huge kill to pull within 14-13, and served six straight points to give the Lions a 19-14 lead.

The Meadows scored the next three points on a service error and two kills by Alexi Corrigan, but Yerington took the next six points to win the set, 25-17. Rachel Dane served an ace on set point.

“Serve receive killed us,” King said. “It got to the point where we couldn’t even do anything. We were shanking balls left and right, and that’s where inexperience comes in.”

The Meadows also won the first point of the second set, but quickly fell behind 16-8 and lost 25-13.

In the third set, the Mustangs hung around tight and pulled within one point seven times. But they could never gain the lead and fell 25-19.

“We would be right there in the mix,” King said. “But then they would just carry it away in the last bit. That’s what is frustrating. We just don’t know how to finish.”

Dina Kosyagin had seven kills and four blocks for The Meadows (18-12).

Amanda Hansen added 11 digs, and Elyse Burns contributed seven digs for the Mustangs.

Incline 3, White Pine 2 — In the other semifinal, the Highlanders rallied for a 20-25, 25-14, 25-17, 21-25, 15-7 win over the Bobcats.

Ashlyn Huntington led White Pine (28-2) with 13 kills, 25 digs and two aces, and teammate Emily Bischoff added 12 kills and 14 digs. Mikinley Prengel had 31 assists, and Mikalyn Almberg notched five aces and 13 digs for the Bobcats, who also got six kills from Britney Kingston.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them,” White Pine coach Kenna Almberg said. “It stings a little, for sure. … We just made too many errors and let them get to us. We gave them a run (in the third set) and you can’t do that in a game to 15. You don’t have time to recover.”

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