By Vern Hee
The Tonopah Lady Muckers volleyball team won its first state volleyball championship ever. They have been in the finals or semi-finals for the last three years.
For Judi Boni, head Muckers coach, it was a dream realized.
The Muckers dominated their Division IV state championship match, beating the Pahranagat Valley Panthers, 25-20, 25-15, 25-8.
Last Thursday night the Lady Muckers left Tonopah for Reno to play in the state playoffs. They were the number one seed after beating the Panthers in regional play. That was after losing to them in the league championship. That game was their only league loss this season.
To get to the state championship, the team had to play Smith Valley on Friday and if it won it would face either Pahranagat Valley Alamo or Virginia City.
Boni said her team prepared well for either outcome.
“We were kind of preparing for number 33 of Alamo with the way she can throw the ball around and we also had to prepare for the little bit we had heard about Virginia City and Smith Valley. We knew both teams had hitters but there still was not a lot of hard hitting and blocking type stuff. These teams were more defensive teams and their passing games were not too good,” said Boni.
Friday came and Boni said she was ready to play Smith Valley.
“On Friday, I was anxious but pretty confident because the girls seemed like they were ready to play. They had relaxed some, had eaten well and they slept well,” said Boni.
Smith was a good warm up for Pahranagat Valley.
“During the Smith Valley game, the other team got the first points. The girls knew that even if they fell behind they knew they could come back and that was not going to be a problem,” she said.
Smith was dispatched in three sets and Tonopah advanced to the final with a 25-23, 25-15, 25-18 sweep of the Bulldogs 16-9 .
Smith Valley was a good opponent. In some ways Boni believes they were stronger than Alamo.
“They served harder than Alamo. Playwise they were not as strong. They fell apart much faster than the Panthers. By the end of the first set we could tell. The girls knew as long as we were passing the ball, our offense was going to run. Our offense was a lot stronger than their’s was. There were some rallies. They were not hitting the ball at us but more like just sending the ball at us. The girls played strong and stuck with every play,” said Boni.
The team advanced to the state finals. Alamo had beaten Virginia City in four sets, 25-14, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18,
Boni had to calm her girls down before the game started last Saturday.
“I told them this is the state championship. I had to keep the girls concentrating on the court and not on all the fans in the stands. There were a lot in the stands from the Reno area and a lot had traveled up to see them. So there was a big roar from the stands and they had to concentrate on being on the court,” the coach said.
Boni said she knew by the end of the first set that things were going her way.
“About halfway through the first set, you could just see the confidence rolling off the girls. They knew everything was going their way. At about halfway through the second set I knew I had the state championship, but didn’t tell the girls that. I did not start smiling until halfway through the third set. Part of that was watching the reaction of Ginger Whipple, the Alamo head coach. She was really trying to get her kids to get something accomplished and it just was not happening. They would get something going and we would just push it right back at them,” remarked Boni.
Boni said that Whipple tried something new against her according to one of the fans in the stands but it did not really make a difference.
“One of our goals during the week was even if they change something, we have so many strengths we will not change. We are going to play our game and that is good passing, good serving and let the setters run the offense. That’s what we did. We did not change anything for what they were doing. We played our game,” Boni said.
Boni said her team just performed great.
“Alli Friel and Deanna Vanpoucke did their usual great games. They were both on top of things. Friel was talking and keeping the team calm. Both are really good court leaders. We had good serving by Jules and Sydney. Jules Klapper was hitting some short serves ,which was really making it hard for both Smith and Alamo to pass on those serves,” she said.
Team leader Deanna Vanpoucke said she was super nervous during the state playoffs but was relieved and happy for Boni and the team that they finally won one for the coach and school.
“It was so nerve racking that to finally get it. In the past, I had my heart broken at the end. Finally, getting it was a relief. The coach was crying. I have been working so hard for her to finally get it. I have been working not for myself but to finally get it for her. It took us three years to get it,” she said.