By GANNON HANEVOLD
Moapa Valley Progress
After a dominant season in league play, the Moapa Valley High School volleyball team headed into the regional playoffs last week as the top seed in the Southern 3A Sunrise division. With this top seed gave them the privilege of hosting the first round of playoff action. That game was played Tuesday against the visiting fourth seeded Desert Pines Jaguars.
Moapa Valley cleaned house on their home court, winning the three sets by scores of 25-5, 25-4, and 25-9. Leading the Pirates was Eden Whitmore with 11 kills, and Shyanne Matheson with nine aces.
The win sent the Pirates into the semifinals, where they would take on the Cheyenne Desert Shields on Thursday night. The Desert Shields had just defeated Virgin Valley in their first playoff game.
In the first set against Cheyenne, the Pirates shook off a slow start to go on a run and lead 15-9, following consecutive kills by Eden Whitmore. The Pirates would win 25-16.
In the second, Moapa was purely in control from the start. The team’s assertiveness was never in doubt, and the Pirates would claim a 25-7 victory.
With the score tied at 3-3 early in the third set, Emilie Barraza came in to serve for the Pirates. Her ace may have sparked momentum for the team. They would maintain control of a double digit lead for much of the set.
An Alex Peay ace with the final point of the match would seal the deal.
Moapa Valley was now headed back to the state tournament for the second straight season.
But the Pirates still had to find out where they’d be seeded for the tournament, and whether they’d reclaim their title of regional champions. To do so, they needed to beat Boulder City in a Friday night matchup.
In their previous two confrontatons with the Eagles, the Pirates had won hard fought games, the most recent of which being decided in the fifth set.
On Friday, during the first set, the two teams battled back and forth. But the set would be decided at the very end, by a final score of 25-23 in favor of the Eagles, leaving the top seeded Pirates star struck.
The second set would follow the same storyline, and the ending would be no different either. The final score stood at 25-23. All of a sudden, Moapa was one set away from falling victim to a sweep in their regional championship game.
But the Pirates came out with a new chip on their shoulders, winning a lopsided 25-10 set to regain control of momentum.
Another close set followed in the fourth. For the third time, the Eagles were able to squeak out a close 25-23 victory, claiming the Southern regional championship and the top seed at the state tournament.
The Pirates left the court stunned.
“It wasn’t so much a sadness,” said MVHS Head Coach Mandie Matheson. “They were upset. They were mad that we hadn’t gotten where we wanted to be. You could see that determination that they’re going to work their guts out this week to see better results this weekend.”
Now the focus for the Moapa team is all forward. “The way that we are viewing it is that you have two choices: you can either lose or you can learn,” Matheson said. “The nice thing about this is that it gave us a good opportunity to see a few areas we have to spruce up a little bit. It was good to see that now instead of getting to the state tournament and wishing we would have done it before.”
In the first matchup of the state tournament, the Pirates will take on the top seeded Lowry Buckaroos. In the other state semifinal, Boulder City takes on Truckee. A season ago, the Wolverines defeated the Pirates in a heartbreaking fifth set state championship game, keeping the Pirates from the 2016 state title. If Moapa Valley can get past Lowry this week, there will be revenge on the line no matter who stands on the other side of the net.
“We’re going to be focusing on many of the things that we recognized last weekend,” Matheson said.
“Mostly, our focus is going to be improving our game instead of focusing so much on the other team. If our girls come in and play the way they know how, they’re going to be okay.”
Lowry and Moapa Valley will battle for a trip to the state championship at 7:30 on Friday, at Faith Lutheran High School. The Pirates are on a mission, and they hope to see their mission reach its destination. They stand two games away from avenging a loss from a year ago, and putting their names in the record books as state champions.