Everyone on both sides knew the situation when the Pahrump Valley and Mojave girls volleyball teams met Wednesday night in Las Vegas.
The Rattlers had swept the Trojans in the first meeting, taking three close sets Sept. 19. That meant, if the Trojans were to win the Sunset League and get the coveted No. 1 seed going into the Class 3A Southern Region tournament, they would have to do the same to the Rattlers and win on a tiebreaker.
It simply wasn’t to be.
After the Trojans won an intense first set, the Rattlers went on a roll in the second, breaking open a close battle with 9 consecutive points and going on to a 25-20 win. With first place in the league basically decided, Mojave finished off a 22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-15 win.
After the first match between the teams, Pahrump Valley coach Jill Harris lamented the fact the Trojans didn’t play their best against the only real rival it has in the league. This time around, the only part of the match that truly mattered was the second half of the second set, and Harris noted the Rattlers were doing something well and the Trojans didn’t do enough to deal with it.
“They got on a roll with their blocks in the second set there, and my hitters weren’t going around her,” Harris said, referring to junior middle blocker Aniya Marshall. The 5-foot-10 junior finished with 6 blocks, but 2 blocks came on consecutive points, the first points of what would be that 9-point run.
“When we were going around her, we were fine, but we swung into her a lot. She controlled the net really well.”
And once the Rattlers got on a roll, it was tough to stop the bleeding.
“There’s big-time momentum in the game of volleyball,” Harris said.
The other major problem for the Trojans has become a familiar one.
“We have to serve better,” Harris said. “Serving has been our Achilles’ heel the entire season. It has killed us in so many different ways.”
Fittingly, a service error ended the crucial second set, as the Rattlers celebrated after watching the ball go long. Eight times during the first two sets, a Pahrump Valley serve did not need to be returned. And Harris noted that nothing stops momentum more than, after winning a quality point, giving one right back by sending a serve into the net.
Nicky Velazquez and Kate Daffer each posted 8 kills, while Maddie Hansen finished with 23 assists and 4 aces. But none of that mattered much after the match.
With Mojave locking up the No. 1 seed, the regular season essentially is over. “There is no prize for second place,” as Harris put it.
The region tournament is less than three weeks away, and the Trojans (7-2 Sunset) will go in as either the No. 2 or the No. 3 seed. Those possibilities offer very different paths to the state tournament, and getting to state has been the goal all along.
Harris was emphatic about two things when talking about the region tournament.
Does she hope to get another crack at the Rattlers? “Yes.” Will her team be ready for them?
Pahrump Valley 3, Del Sol 0: Nicky Velazquez recorded 8 kills and Kylie Stritenberger added 7 as the Trojans rolled to a 25-16, 25-13, 25-15 victory over the Dragons.
Maddie Hansen finished with 21 assists for Pahrump Valley.