RENO – The Cougars didn’t win a league title on Wednesday night. But they did get a lot closer to one.
Spanish Springs grinded out a 26-24, 26-24, 25-21 sweep at McQueen (16-11, 9-4) to keep a two-game lead over Reno, and open up a three-game lead over the Lancers, with just three matches left in the regular season.
“It’s huge because … we control our own destiny now for league. That’s the biggest thing,” Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said. “If we win tomorrow, it guarantees us a home playoff game.”
The Cougars can avoid a possible, but unlikely, three-way tie with a Senior Night victory over winless Hug on Thursday night. A win would mean the Cougars (29-6, 11-2) could finish no lower than second place in the HDL. The league’s top two teams open the postseason in their home gym.
It was the second time this season Spanish Springs took care of McQueen in straight sets. This time was much more difficult as the Cougars needed more than 25 points in both the first and second sets.
“I just felt like our girls never got down, and they stayed together,” Sandomenico said. “When we’re talking and moving, we’re at our best. And this is the kind of game that forces you to do that.”
In the first set, Spanish Springs trailed 22-20 then scored the next three points to grab a 23-22 lead on one of Emily Moore’s team-high 12 kills. McQueen claimed two of the next three to tie it at 24 before a service error and an Ireland Bennett ace gave Spanish Springs a 1-0 lead.
The second set’s sixth and final tie again left the two teams deadlocked at 24. Another McQueen service error gave Spanish Springs a 25-24 advantage. Freshman Alysa Micone then put the Cougs up two sets to none with a powerful kill through two would-be McQueen blockers.
It was one of her three kills to go along with a pair of blocks.
“She (Micone) was awesome,” Sandomenico said. “Her and Ireland I thought were huge different makers tonight. Because we set our outside hitters so much that we needed those two. They gave us a lot.”
Bennett put down 10 kills, as did Jordyn Boswell.
The Cougars rode the momentum of the two emotional wins into the third set and sealed the pivotal victory.
Mackenzie O’Connell found all five categories on the stat sheet for the Cougars, turning in 36 assists as well as four digs, two kills, a block and an ace. Kennedey Stroshine got up 16 digs. Olivia Galletti had nine.
The win was sprinkled with some redemption for Spanish Springs. Last year, in the same gym, the Cougs played the de facto HDL title game and lost in five. Sandomenico said he did not address the defeat leading into the contest.
“No we didn’t bring it up. That’s in the past,” he said. “Last year was truly at the end of the season. Even if we lost tonight, there was still a chance for us to win league. We just like to control our own destiny. It’s huge.”
Spanish Springs can lay claim to the HDL title with a win on Thursday night at home over Hug, followed by just one win next week over Reno or Reed.
HDL vball playoff picture:
Spanish Springs 11-2
Spanish Springs is at Reno on Tuesday.
— Nathan Shoup (@Trib_Shoup) October 20, 2016
The Huskies beat the Cougars in four sets two weeks ago in Spanish Springs.
“We just have to clean up some things,” Sandomenico said. “We had some lapses.”