Twice Spanish Springs was a point away from clinching the High Desert League title on Thursday night at McQueen.
The Cougars were forced to watch the Lancers celebrate what will likely be a league title.
“It’s huge, absolutely huge,” McQueen coach Jeff Zimmerman said of the 25-13, 22-25, 21-25, 25-21, 16-14 come-from-behind win. “That’s the match right there.”
Spanish Springs led the deciding fifth set 14-12 but watched McQueen rattle off the final four points out of a timeout, cuing the celebration.
“Two great teams playing game five, anything can happen,” Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said of the conclusion. “We told them (during the timeout) to relax, don’t change anything. Nothing special at that point.”
The Cougars (21-10, 11-4), which entered on a nine-match winning streak, would have claimed the league title outright with a win. The Lancers (16-10, 11-3) haven’t mathematically clinched the No. 1 seed, yet, but can do the deed next Tuesday with a win over winless Hug.
On top of greatly diming league title hopes, the loss was also consequential looking ahead to the regional tournament. Now staring at the HDL No. 2 seed, if the Cougs are able win their quarterfinal matchup, they would likely play Bishop Manogue in the semifinals for a spot in the regional title game and a state berth. The Miners are yet to lose to a DI North team and are ranked No. 1 in the state by maxpreps.com.
“We were 2-3 at the start of the season then really turned our season around so I’m really proud of the girls,” Sandomenico said. “I’m disappointed we didn’t win tonight but proud of them.”
With a 2-1 lead after three sets, the Cougs had a chance to end it in four. McQueen jumped to a 9-3 lead but Spanish Springs battled back to tie the set at 13, and trailed just 21-20 after an Emily Moore kill. Moore had a career night, finishing with a team-high 21 kills.
But two unforced errors sandwiched around an ace led to a 25-21 McQueen win and a tie at two sets apiece leading into the determining fifth set.
McQueen closed the first set on 13-2 run to grab a 1-0 lead with a 25-13 victory before Spanish Springs grabbed sets No. 2 and No. 3 on the strength of fast starts. The Cougs led 8-3 in the first set and 7-3 in the second.
“Our hitters played scared in the first game, they were scared of getting blocked,” Sandomenico said. “We always talk about never being scared of getting blocked … Once we made that adjustment, it really made a difference.”
Ireland Bennett also reached double digits in kills, finishing with 10. Mackenzie O’Connell passed out 43 assists and got up 16 digs—both led the team.
For McQueen, it was a well-balanced attack. Hanna Spevak, Holly White and Aubrey Pitts co-led the team with nine kills. Taylor Forte had eight.
The Cougars wrap up the regular season next week with a rare Saturday afternoon game at Reed (1 p.m. start) before the DI North regional tournament opener Tuesday, Nov. 3.
Reed sweeps North Valleys
The Raiders won their fourth-straight, and clinched a playoff berth, on Thursday with a 25-6, 25-18, 25-18 home sweep of North Valleys (1-17, 1-14).
Reed improved to 5-17, 4-10.
Maddie Johnson had 10 kills in the sweep and Hannah Pinto dished out 26 assists. Reed had 13 aces as a team.
The Raiders will attempt to push their winning streak to five next Tuesday at Reno.