By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
At this time last season, the Moapa Valley High School Volleyball team was celebrating claiming the top seed in the Sunrise. Now, at the end of the 2017 season they’ve found themselves doing the same. But with the regional playoffs and a potential berth in the state tournament for the second straight season still on the road ahead, the Pirates are taking it a game at a time.
Last week, the Pirates hosted Boulder City in what was set to be the biggest game of the season for either side. The top seed in their division was on the line for both teams.
In the first set, Moapa came out strong, scoring the first ten points. While the Eagles responded and narrowed the score a bit, the Pirates would hold on and win the first set 25-18.
In the second, the score was back and forth, thanks to three consecutive aces by Eden Whitmore early on. A pair of aces from Dannika Gordon as well as highlight reel kills by Eden Whitmore kept Moapa in control with a 22-19. But Boulder City rallied to score six straight points and won the set 25-22.
Going into the third set, the Pirates needed to bounce back. But they fell behind, 6-1, early on. Serving from Kessa Evans and more powerful hits from Eden Whitmore on the outside brought the Pirates back as they led 20-17 late in the set. Sure enough, the Pirates held on for a 25-20 win to put themselves one win away from a victory on their home court.
The fourth set would turn out to be long and intense. Neither side could gain an upper hand in the early going, as the score would be 8-8. However, the Pirates pulled out five straight scores, topped off with an ace by Shelbi Walker.
Boulder City closed the gap later on, making things 22-22, three points away from forcing a fifth set. At this point, both sides traded scores relentlessly. Finally, Boulder City broke through, winning by an agonizing 30-28 final score. This would set up a decisive fifth set.
In the fifth and final set, to decide the likely top seed in the Sunrise, the Pirates came out to another strong start. An Eden Whitmore kill scored the fifth point unanswered early on as the Pirates went up 5-0. Just when it seemed like the Eagles were fighting back, sophomore Abbie Evans came through with consecutive blocks to send the Moapa Valley crowd into a frenzy and give her team a 7-4 lead. More dominance from Eden Whitmore and the Pirates would keep them hanging on and they’d ultimately win 15-8.
“Any time you have a longer match with more sets, you get to try some different things, and you get to see how your girls and the other team handle pressure situations,” said MVHS Head Coach Mandie Matheson. “To have that match and the Meadows one right before regionals is good.”
Matheson praised the leadership of her seniors as well, and their obvious role in the Pirates’ success. However, she also emphasized the play of the underclassmen on the team; particularly that of Abbie Evans.
“Abbie had an incredible game,” Matheson said. “She had eight kills and just one error and had a couple big blocks when we needed them. She’s learned with the leadership of the seniors. They all know what’s expected of them and want to perform for each other and their school.”
A three set victory on the road Wednesday last week against Sky Pointe sealed up the top seed for the Pirates.
They will move on to the regional playoffs, where they just might see rivals Virgin Valley and Boulder City again. “We anticipate we’re gonna be playing teams from our league the second half of the week,” Matheson said. “We can’t take anybody for granted. We have to be prepared mentally and have to go in knowing we have the tools to beat our opponent.”