EL DORADO — The host Union Mine and El Dorado girls volleyball teams traded tips, digs, blocks, sets, kills and dance moves for their Sierra Valley Conference match Thursday night. When the dust settled the Diamondbacks had defeated the Cougars 25-14, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21.
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“It was close, they’re a tough team and I was a little nervous coming in,” Union Mine coach Marti Howton said. “We were intense the whole time and talked and communicated more than any time this season and momentum was on our side.”
Clearly, the D’backs have history on their side less than a year since winning a state title. The team’s scrappy style of play, especially on defense, was evident as time-after-time Union Mine kept plays alive in the back-and-forth match — reminiscent of the squad’s key asset a year ago.
“They kept getting the ball back and that doesn’t happen in our league except for two teams. We’re used to balls (kills) going down the first time on in-system plays,” El Dorado coach Sharon Hardy said. “We couldn’t catch a break tonight.”
The Cougars couldn’t. Any play bordering on unconventional went the D’backs’ way. El Dorado was solid but just didn’t bring enough to overtake Union Mine on its home court.
“We didn’t play to our potential and needed more cohesion as a team,” Cougar Lena Gavin said. “We’ll work on that for the second half (of league).”
Led by the serving/setting of Brooke Howton, the hitting of Jordan Buxton and Andrea Barnes, the blocking of Sarah Phillis and the all-around play of Taylor Thomas and McKaela Vonasek, Union Mine led start to finish in the opening set.
El Dorado rebounded in the next set as Gavin’s consecutive tip over/tip off the D’back block had the Cougars on the comeback trail and set the stage for Courtney Macklin to dominate at the net. Trailing 20-19, Kylee Hardy back-set Macklin to tie and after two Macklin blocks and tap-down at the net, El Dorado was up 23-21.
Union Mine pulled even but Buxton missed on a hit and at game point with Mariel Thoma on serve, Kylee fed Keely Franz for the game-winner to tie the match.
The next two sets were close with numerous ties and lead changes. Barnes led a charge at the end of set No. 3 for the win and in the fourth set, late Cougar miscues cost the Placerville team.
“I think that’s the best we’ve played,” Buxton said. “We’re missing a few players but we came togther and everyone stepped up.”