EL DORADO — Two local programs, each with state-level finals experience, clashed Thursday at Union Mine where visiting Golden Sierra outlasted the Lady Diamondbacks in five, 15-25, 25-22, 24-18, 24-26, 15-7.
Behind Kylie Russell’s early service run, Union Mine’s good start/end sandwiched some solid Grizzly play in the middle as the hosts jumped to the lead. Answering, Golden Sierra took the next two sets, dropped a fourth-game overtime thriller but controlled the deciding set for the victory.
“We needed that to lift our spirits,” Griz coach Justin Cox said. “I thought the girls played great. We did well with our serving — Abby (Abigail Wever) and Brittany (Lashell) put the ball deep which made it tough for Union Mine.”
Wever landed 10 aces on the evening and added some key blocks at the net. She was joined by the efforts of setter Jordyn Condit, Paige Murchison, Tristan Nedeigh, Becca Brown, Lashell, Elise Wilson, Jazmin Lutey-Willard, Kensie Clark and Lexi Chiaratti as the Garden Valley girls turned in a gritty comeback performance.
“We just didn’t want them (D’backs) to get the best of us. Our goal was to play as a team and not individuals,” Wever said.
Brooke Howton’s serve had Union Mine up 5-2 in the second set before the score evened out and was back-and-forth. Wever’s ace and a Nedeigh-Condit connection had the Grizzlies up 20-15 and in control before the D’backs pulled even after an Andrea Barnes’ kill. McKaela Vonasek landed an ace but Golden Sierra’s 3-0 run, highlighted by Murchison’s ace, closed the set.
Wever’s ace-laded service run shot the Griz to a 10-5 lead in the third set. Union Mine came on but failed to catch the Grizzlies.
Barnes, the last remaining member of the D’backs’ 2011 state title team, displayed the heart of a champion as she rallied her team in the fourth set. Union Mine, led by Gabrielle Fredricks, Vonasek, Russell and Jordyn Trulli, forced Murchison to hit away from the block but the Grizzly junior adjusted with a wind-but-tap over the D’back line to tie the score at 24s. Two unforced errors sent the match to the fifth set.
“We lost communication early and became confused but overall we came together and played really well,” Barnes said. “The fifth set was too quick for us … we didn’t do what we needed to do.”
Wever’s two taps at the net broke a 2-2 score and Golden Sierra never looked back. Kills from Murchison, another Wever ace and some Union Mine miscues carried the Grizzlies to the finish line.
“We came out strong but struggled with our service receive and passing,” D’back coach Kasey Del Rio said. “In fifth-set matches you have to make stops sooner and your comeback has to be at 8 (points) … not 12.”