Spanish Springs entered 2016 with several goals, and justifiably so.
The Cougars returned a deep, talented senior class from a team that finished second in the High Desert League in 2015. So when this season began, coach Frank Sandomenico made the first goal clear: Win a league title.
His Cougars (31-6, 13-3) cleared that hurdle on Wednesday night, the final night of the regular season, with a 25-19, 25-15, 25-11 sweep at Reed (7-16, 5-11). It’s the program’s fourth league title in the last six years.
“It’s hard to gauge what’s more important, being able to put it up on a banner and say you’re league champs, or the fact you’re the No. 1 seed. I go back and forth,” Sandomenico said. “I’d have to say it’s 50-50. The thing is, you get that league championship, nobody can ever take that away from you.”
Spanish Springs entered the night one game ahead of both Reno and McQueen, after falling in four sets at Reno on Tuesday. It’s the fifth time in the last six years the team has won at least 12 league games. Over that span, Sandomenico has a 71-25 league record.
Eleven of those defeats came in 2014 when a roster nearly identical to this year’s went 5-11 as sophomores – eight games behind this year’s final record.
“It’s very hard to make that kind of jump,” Sandomenico said. “(I’m) just super proud of them.”
Ireland Bennett finished with a game-high 10 kills in the win. Jordyn Boswell had nine. Mackenzie O’Connell served eight aces to go along with 27 assists, five digs and a kill.
Olivia Shepard led Reed with five kills. Kyra Moss got up a game-high 12 digs.
The Raiders’ first-year coach Amy Morris said she liked what she saw from her team early in the loss. The third set? Not so much.
“I feel like we definitely gave up at the end,” she lamented. “Game one and two, you saw some fight and we were getting in it. We had some good plays happening so I was disappointed in game three … I just wish we would have finished it out better.”
The Raiders finished fourth in the HDL and will open the 4A North regional tournament on Tuesday at Bishop Manogue, the Sierra League champion. The Miners have not lost to a 4A North team this year.
“They (Miners) serve really well. We’re going to have to be able to receive serve to give ourselves a shot,” Morris said. “Tonight, we didn’t receive serve very well which makes it really tough for our setters running all over the place trying to put up balls. If we don’t receive serve against them, we’re done.”
The Cougars, who improved to 11-2 against their cross-town rivals in the last 13, will start the regional tournament at home on Tuesday night against the Sierra League No. 4 seed, either Galena or Damonte Ranch.
“I think our approach has to be, there’s only one team we need to worry about and that’s Spanish Springs,” Sandomenico said. “We just worry about what we do, that’s when we play best.”