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SUNSET VOLLEYBALL: Mustangs roll into title match

Shadow Ridge’s Karissa Guthrie doesn’t need to coach during volleyball matches. For her, coaching is taken care of during practices, where she goes over rotations, tendencies and discipline on the court.

Thursday night at Arbor View, her Mustangs were exquisite with their execution against Palo Verde, winning in straight sets, 25-16, 25-7, 25-20, to advance to Friday’s championship match of the Sunset Region tournament.

Shadow Ridge (26-12) will face Bishop Gorman (26-13) at 7 p.m. Friday at Arbor View.

“My coaching is done 100 percent during practice. Timeouts, yes, we make sure they’re aware of what rotation the other team is in, what their tendencies are,” Guthrie said. “But the girls are talking to each other on the court. When it comes to game time, it’s game time. That’s what we’re focused on, is them going out and playing the game.”

Whitnee Nihipali led Shadow Ridge with 17 kills, eight digs and two aces. But it was her court presence that seemed to have a bigger impact, as she stayed involved in nearly every play.

With one set in the bank, and the Mustangs ahead 5-4 in the second set, they seized control. After a side out gave them the serve, Nihipali served nine straight points for Shadow Ridge, which won several big points during the rally and slowly deflated the upset-minded Panthers.

“We wanted to come out and steal their momentum and build our own off of theirs and just dominate,” Nihipali said. “And every point you could feel more and more excitement building up.”

During her nine-point run, Nihipali directed traffic from the back row, while Eadara Files piled up the assists.

“We knew they would be coming with fire, and we know we can’t take any team lightly,” said Files, who finished with 33 assists and nine digs. “From here, we know we just have to play as if it’s our last game.”

The Mustangs closed the second set on 20-3 run, culminating with a monster kill by Nihipali.

The Panthers kept the final set close, as the teams were tied six times and exchanged leads three times before Shadow Ridge pulled away late, using a 6-1 run to seal the match.

“Anytime you go into the playoffs, it’s a whole new situation,” Guthrie said. “It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen a team, or how many times you’ve beaten a team or they’ve beaten you — playoffs is a whole different situation. There is no overlooking teams.”

Bishop Gorman 3, Arbor View 0 — At Arbor View, Vashti Cunningham had 18 kills, two blocks and two aces as the Gaels dominated the Aggies, 25-15, 25-15, 25-15.

Bishop Gorman overcame an 11-6 deficit in the first set and took a 12-11 lead. After the Aggies tied the score at 13, the Gaels used a 12-2 run to set the tone for the match. The Gaels opened the second set with a 3-0 lead and while the Aggies responded to tie the score immediately, Gorman got dominant play from Cunningham to open up a 20-12 lead en route to the win.

Though it closed the gap to 14-11 midway through the third set, Arbor View couldn’t overcome the Gaels’ defense and strong play at the net.

Sydney Labato had 28 assists and five aces for Gorman. Hannah Goddard had 14 kills and two aces for Arbor View, and teammate Alyssa Jeeves had 25 assists.

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