STATE VOLLEYBALL: Van Meetren confident playoff-savvy Gaels ready to advance

Bishop Gorman has appeared in the girls state volleyball tournament five consecutive years but has yet to win a title.

Longtime Gaels coach Ed Van Meetren hopes to flip the script starting at 7:15 p.m. today, when Gorman (29-8) faces Coronado (29-6) in the Division I state tournament at Green Valley.

Bishop Manogue (23-5) and Palo Verde (34-4) open the tournament at 5:30 p.m. The winners will meet in the championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday at Green Valley.

Van Meetren said his team has the ability to reach the title match, but that it will come down to execution and holding assignments. He said his team’s playoff experience is a big advantage.

“They’re extremely confident right now because they’ve been there before,” Van Meetren said. “They know what it takes to get there, and I think that’s an advantage for us. We are familiar with the environment and how things go.

“We felt like we’ve underachieved the past few years. A lot of it has been serving and lack of mental toughness, but we feel that we’re ready to go and we’re going to go after it.”

Van Meetren hopes to keep getting production from senior outside hitter Gianna Ruggeroli, who has started every varsity match since her freshman year.

“Gianna in the playoffs has stepped up,” Van Meetren said. “She’s developed a strong personality and has refused to lose. She’s shown that she’s one of the better players in town. She’s hands-down the best athlete I’ve coached.”

Ruggeroli had 11 kills and 11 digs in a 3-1 win over Green Valley in the state play-in match. The Gaels fell to Palo Verde 3-1 in the Sunset title match, ending the team’s streak of four consecutive regional titles.

“I was crying,” Ruggeroli said. “I’ve been on varsity since freshman year, so I’ve never not won (regionals). It was pretty hard for me, but I was just grateful we were still in it and had the chance.”

Van Meetren said: “The regional title is irrelevant at this point in time. We’ve got to the show where we wanted to go. We’re going to take it one game at a time and just go after it that way.”

Ruggeroli said the Gaels are capable of winning the title.

“I think every year we’ve had the talent to win state,” Ruggeroli said. “I think this year we can get to the finals as long as we work together and minimize errors.”

The Gaels will need Ruggeroli and the rest of their talented front line, which includes Utah signee Emma Kirst and Francesca Manz, to continue dominating at the net.

“I think we need to focus on putting up a good block and just terminating the ball every time,” Manz said.

Van Meetren acknowledged that Coronado is similar to his team.

“If we are consistent and spread the court, we’re going to be really tough,” he said. “You can’t key on one individual because we have everybody else that can still dominate at any one time on the court. We’re more than capable of winning it all. I’d be ecstatic with that.”

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