Pahranagat Valley High volleyball is on top once again.
On Nov. 10, Virginia City brought a 17-match winning streak to the 1A volleyball state championship finals, playing against two-time defending champion Pahranagat Valley High School at Bishop Manogue in Reno.
Not only that, but Pahranagat coach Milly Walch said the players knew they had to watch Virginia City’s star player, senior outside hitter Chelsea Nevin. “She hits straight down and we knew we had to attack harder on offense. We knew what they could bring.”
The first set was tight, with the Muckers taking that one, 25-22.
The Lady Panthers adjusted their strategy thereafter and won the next three sets and the match, 3-1.
PVHS (20-8) had beaten Virginia City 3-0 in the 2017 state semifinals.
It marks a record 20th state title since 1985 for Pahranagat, and the first for first-year coach Walch, herself a former PVHS player.
It also marked the 23rd consecutive year Pahranagat Valley has been in the championship finals, another state record. They have won the title 19 times.
In the second set with Virginia City, Walch said, “We knew we had to take them out of their game, mess their game up. Not give them a good set, bump and hit which they would likely score on. So, what I had our girls do was serve to the Virginia City setter, aim the serve to the setter [freshman Katie Chandler], when possible. If she receives the ball on the serve, she has to pass it and not set it, and the hitters then don’t get as much of a good set.”
According to volleyball rules, if the setter is the first person to touch the ball, she cannot touch it again, unless she is the person attempting the kill, which is highly unlikely.
The second set with the Muckers was also tight, going to a 21-20 advantage for the Panthers. But they closed it out, getting four of the next five points for a 25-21 win.
“We were trying to get the Muckers ‘out of system,’” Walch said. “Get in their heads a little bit. And our service strategy was working.”
Pahranagat had a big l2-2 lead in the third set, but the Muckers fought back and closed at 19-12.
From there the Panther girls had a 6-1 run to win the third set, 25-13.
“We knew we could not let Virginia City back in it,” Walch said. “If they would have made a strong comeback on us, if we had let them in just a little bit, they could have taken it from us.”
In game four, Pahranagat again built a large lead, 20-6. Then Virginia City went on a 7-4 run, but the Panthers had a 24-13 lead with match point on the line.
That came on a kill by the hard-hitting Harris and the Lady Panthers leapt for joy, having completed a three-peat of the 1A girls state title. This is the first time they have done that since 2009-2011.
Pahranagat Valley has now defeated Virginia City four straight times, all in tournament play, since 2012.
The Muckers finished the season, 22-7.
In the tournament semifinals on Friday, Pahranagat defeated a strong Eureka team, 3-0. Scores were 25-23, 25-13, 25-20.
Walch said Eureka was employing, “a double-block on hits quite a bit of the time, and we had Morgan [Harris] and Hannah [Castleton] tip around it when possible.”
Eureka coach Katie Benson said, “Those tips were really what hurt us a lot in that match.”
Virginia City beat Smith Valley 3-0, 25-18, 25-19, 25-17 in the other semifinal.
Walch, who has now won the state title as a player and a coach, said she learned more in her first year as coach than she can put into words.
“My senior players really helped me greatly. Together, we were good support for each other.”
Now, when the new banner goes up on the north wall in the Pahranagat gym, 19 will be from the previous coach and one from the new one. There’s always room for more.