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VOLLEYBALL: Shadow Ridge cruises past Faith Lutheran

Shadow Ridge girls volleyball coach Karissa Guthrie said her team had an off night serving the ball Thursday against Faith Lutheran. But Crusaders coach Amy Fisher said the Mustangs are the best serving team they’ve played all year.

All a matter of perspective.

Either way, homestanding Shadow Ridge overwhelmed Faith Lutheran en route to a 25-22, 25-17, 25-20 victory.

“That is one of our strong suits generally, we do serve tough,” Guthrie said. “The girls are real good at hitting at certain areas and picking at certain players. They do some good things back serving.”

And it was a little too much for Faith Lutheran to handle.

The Crusaders built a 16-10 lead in the first set but the Mustangs settled in and rallied, thanks in large part to junior sensation Whittnee Nihipali — one of the top players in the state. The 6-foot-2-inch hitter asserted her dominance with timely blocks and and helped Shadow Ridge settle into the match by punctuating the first-set victory with a vicious kill.

“We just had to warm up and get our muscles ready,” Nihipali said. “By the second and third (sets), we were ready to go.”

Were they ever.

The Mustangs parlayed their first-set comeback into an easy victory in the second set. Shadow Ridge passed the ball effectively and set its hitters up for easy kills.

The Mustangs built a big lead in the third set, too. The Crusaders rallied late to make it interesting but Shadow Ridge eventually closed them out to secure the sweep.

“We’re typically pretty good passers, but they had some really nice (serves) coming in pretty consistently,” Fisher said. “When we started struggling servicing, it kind of went downhill for us.”

Nihipali had 15 kills and 14 digs. Shadow Ridge’s Autumn Spendlove had 30 assists and 10 digs, and Kizzy Rodriguez added six kills and 10 digs.

Tayah Washington had eight kills and seven digs for Faith Lutheran, and teammate Logan Van Reken added nine digs.

The Mustangs are rounding into form with victories in five of their last six matches and improved to 17-6 with Thursday’s win. The Crusaders, who are playing a Class 4A schedule after playing in Class 3A (then Division I-A) the last three years, fell to 10-10.

Fisher said her players still need to learn how to compete “day in and day out” now that they’re playing up a class.

“In the past, we could have an off day and it wasn’t going to be an issue,” Fisher said. “Little bit of an off day, and it’s an issue against a team like this.”

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