Green Valley girls volleyball coach Erin Hill knew she had one of the state’s top teams as she sent her players onto the court to begin their season Friday.
By the time the final point fell to the floor on Saturday, most everyone else in the Las Vegas High gym agreed.
The defending state champion Gators got off to a slow start, but recovered convincingly to defeat Spanish Springs 19-25, 25-21, 15-8 in the championship match of the Las Vegas Invitational.
Junior outside hitter Nikki Drost came on strong in the final two sets to lead Green Valley, finishing with 18 kills and nine digs.
“We weren’t very focused in the first game,” said Drost, whose team was both overpowered and out-finessed in the first set. “We might have underestimated them. But we came back hard because we wanted to win the championship.”
Hill said she never worried, despite her team’s many mental errors in the opening set.
“We made the decision that we weren’t going to let any more balls drop,” she said. “A lot of balls dropped in that first game.”
The Cougars, who fell behind early in the first set, forced many of those balls to drop by finding open holes on the floor. Gabby Szchara helped tie the score at 11 with a kill, and Spanish Springs slowly pulled away.
The second set appeared to be mirroring the first when the Cougars again rallied, but four late kills by Drost helped the Gators seize momentum down the stretch.
“Nikki places her shots so well,” Hill said. “She looks, and sees where they’re not.”
Though the final set stayed close early, back-to-back kills by Carly Schiess gave Green Valley a 9-6 lead, and the Gators cruised the rest of the way.
Hill, whose squad beat Sylmar (Calif.), Shadow Ridge, Bishop Gorman and Reed earlier in the day to reach the title match, said her team’s play confirmed her belief that the Gators can repeat as state champions.
“This has huge significance,” said Hill, whose team’s easy victory over Reed in the semifinals was a rematch of last year’s state title match. “The last time we won this was when we won back-to-back state championships in 1995-96. We said we were going to win the tournament, and we won it.”
Jenna Swaffer had 28 assists and two aces to help Green Valley, which lost only one set in the tournament. Teammate Amanda Lake added 11 digs, and Schiess had nine kills and seven digs.
Melissa Munley logged six kills to lead Spanish Springs.
Drost, Schiess and Swaffer each was named to the all-tournament team. Also among the 10 players named to the team were Faith Lutheran’s Courtney Hansen and Taylor Richards, and Shadow Ridge’s Niehely Sosa.
Foothill 2, Clovis North (Calif.) 1 — At Green Valley, Zoe Wolfenbarger dished out 10 assists and had two aces and two digs as the Falcons outlasted Clovis North, 26-24, 25-20, 15-7 in pool play.
Sarah Dusenbury added six kills and three digs, and Samantha Douglas added five kills, three blocks and four digs for Foothill.
Faith Lutheran 2, Skyline (Utah) 0 — At Green Valley, Richards registered 10 kills, six digs and four aces, and Gianni Perryman had 22 assists and three aces as the Crusaders topped Skyline, 25-19, 25-20 in pool play.
Hansen added seven kills and seven digs for Faith Lutheran.
Foothill 2, Faith Lutheran 0 — At Las Vegas, Douglas’ 11 kills and two digs helped the Falcons sweep the Crusaders, 25-20, 25-22 in the opening round of the championship bracket.
Wolfenbarger had 16 assists and four kills, and Emma Khachikian contributed six kills for Foothill.
Perryman paced Faith Lutheran with 23 assists and five digs. Richards had seven kills and five digs, and Taylor Hammer supplied eight kills for the Crusaders.
Westlake (Calif.) 2, Foothill 1 — At Las Vegas, Westlake held off the Falcons, 26-27, 25-23, 15-5 in a Gold Division quarterfinal.
Wolfenbarger paced Foothill with 17 assists and three kills. Douglas supplied six kills and two blocks, and Khachikian had five kills for the Falcons.
Faith Lutheran 2, Las Vegas 0 — At Las Vegas, Perryman distributed 25 assists as the Crusaders topped the Wildcats, 25-14, 25-23 in a Silver Bracket quarterfinal.
Lindsey Flangas and Sam Leonard each had seven kills for Faith Lutheran.
Faith Lutheran 2, Buhach Colony (Calif.) 0 — At Las Vegas, Perryman had 26 assists, and Richards added eight digs, seven kills and five aces as the Crusaders advanced to the Silver final with a 27-26, 25-14 win over Buhach Colony.
Hansen supplied eight digs and seven kills, and Hammer had seven kills for Faith Lutheran.
Faith Lutheran 2, Shadow Ridge 0 — At Las Vegas, Richards contributed six kills and nine digs, and Perryman supplied 21 assists as the Crusaders won the Silver Bracket title with a 25-17, 25-20 victory over the Mustangs.
Hansen had seven kills and four aces for Faith Lutheran, which got three blocks from Hammer.
Boulder City 2, Calvary Chapel 0 — At Green Valley, the Eagles were 25-21, 25-17 winners in pool play.
Brooke Davis paced Calvary Chapel with 12 assists and seven digs, and Deja Harris added nine kills and seven digs for the Lions.
Coronado 2, Calvary Chapel 0 — At Green Valley, the Cougars concluded pool play with a 25-13, 25-23 win over the Lions.
Davis had eight assists, six digs, four kills and two aces, and Harris contributed four kills and five digs for the Lions.
Carson 2, Calvary Chapel 0 — At Green Valley, the Senators were 25-13, 25-21 winners over the Lions in the consolation bracket.
Davis had eight assists and five digs, and Harris supplied seven digs and four kills for the Lions.
Calvary Chapel 2, Moapa Valley 1 — At Green Valley, Davis had 18 assists, four digs and four aces; and Harris added 13 kills and six blocks to propel the Lions past the Pirates, 21-25, 25-16, 16-14 in a Copper Bracket quarterfinal.
Athena Lewis added seven digs, two kills and two aces, and Jamie Mejia and Maddy Sotelo each had four kills for Calvary Chapel.
Calvary Chapel 2, Arbor View 1 — At Green Valley, Harris spiked 11 kills and had six digs as the Lions rallied for a 14-25, 25-16, 15-12 win over the Aggies in the Copper semifinals.
Davis dished out 14 assists and had four digs, and Lewis had seven digs for Calvary Chapel.
Calvary Chapel 2, JW North (Calif.) 1 — At Green Valley, Harris pumped in 18 kills to help the Lions win the Copper Bracket title with a 19-25, 25-22, 15-11 victory over JW North.
Davis had 14 assists and four digs, and Allison Brown added six digs for Calvary Chapel.
Spanish Springs 2, Palo Verde 0 — At Las Vegas, Spanish Springs posted a 25-14, 25-11 win over the Panthers in pool play.
Stephanie Herman paced Palo Verde with 12 assists, and temmates Jenna Bobroski and Kendall Cheval each added five kills.
Bishop Gorman 2, Palo Verde 1 — At Las Vegas, the Gaels opened Gold Division play with a 23-25, 25-23, 15-9 win over the Panthers.
Herman had 23 assists for Palo Verde. Cheval supplied 10 kills and seven digs, and Bobroski had 12 kills and eight digs for the Panthers.
Shadow Ridge 2, Palo Verde 1 — At Las Vegas, the Mustangs outlasted the Panthers, 23-25, 25-17, 15-12 in a Silver Bracket quarterfinal.
Faryn Duncan had 11 digs for Palo Verde, which also got 19 assists from Herman and nine kills from Cheval.
Lake Mead 2, Liberty 0 — At Green Valley, Taylor Vetter had 16 kills, and Megan Watkins added 14 assists and six digs to lead the Eagles past the Patriots, 25-20, 25-15.
Jenette Hensley contributed six digs, and Rachael Watkins added three aces and four digs for Lake Mead.
Bonanza 2, Lake Mead 0 — At Green Valley, the Bengals posted a 25-17, 25-18 win over the Eagles.
Vetter had six kills, three digs and two aces, and Megan Watkins supplied five assists and three digs for Lake Mead, which got six digs from Taylor Badua-Kono.
Centennial 2, Lake Mead 0 — At Green Valley, the Bulldogs were 25-16, 25-11 winners over the Eagles in the opening round of the consolation bracket.
Vetter’s seven kills and eight digs paced Lake Mead. Rachel Watkins supplied 10 digs, and Megan Watkins had four kills, six assists and six digs for the Eagles.
Canyon View (Utah) 2, Lake Mead 1 — At Green Valley, Canyon View advanced in the Copper Bracket by outlasting the Eagles, 17-25, 25-14, 20-18.
Vetter posted 14 kills and 12 digs, and Megan Watkins had 15 assists, 11 digs and three kills for Lake Mead. Badua-Kono and Rachael Watkins each added 14 digs for the Eagles.