The fact that the Purple and White shocked the Nevada prep volleyball world by winning the program’s first state championship is why Spanish Springs was named the Sparks Tribune’s Female Team of the Year.
“We were definitely the underdogs. We just played our hardest and did what we knew we could do, and did it,” senior Rachel Loadholt said.
First up at state was Sunset Region champion Bishop Gorman. Spanish Springs won the first two sets only to watch Gorman rally to tie the match up at two games apiece.
The Gaels were a point away from the match win at 14-12, 14-13 and 15-14. However, Spanish Springs shocked Gorman with the final three points of the game to suddenly swing momentum with a knockout blow.
That set up a matchup with Green Valley, a team most expected to defend its state championship. The Gators looked poised to beat a Rail City school in the state title game for the second straight year after taking down Reed in 2011.
Green Valley smoked Spanish Springs 25-12 in Game 1, but the local squad returned the favor with its own match-tying 25-12 win in the second game. The Cougars then went on to claim the third and fourth games by 25-21 and 25-22 margins.
“It was awesome. It was a great year and not just because we won,” SSHS volleyball coach Frank Sandomenico said. “It was such a great group of kids and they got along so well together. It was fun for just that reason, but when you look back at that weekend, beating Gorman and Green Valley, it just makes it that much more of an enjoyable experience. Those were two really good teams. It took a special effort to beat them both. If we played those teams back-to-back 10 times, I don’t know how many times we could have beaten both of them. It was just our weekend.”
Spanish Springs was led by a group of seniors, including Northern Player of the Year Lyndsey Anderson. In 16 league games, the setter/outside hitter had 358 assists, 67 kills, 59 digs, 27 aces and 10 blocks. She also led the team with a .455 hitting percentage.
Senior outside hitters Melly Munley and Loadholt each stepped up at the right times as part of a balanced attack and earned first team all-league honors.
“It was awesome. We worked so hard. We seniors have been together since the seventh grade and we played club together. We just felt one day we could get a state championship and we finally did,” Loadholt said. “Being together for so long definitely helped and we have a great bond with the younger players. Everything we did outside of volleyball helped tremendously. We consider ourselves a family. All that together made us click and play together the best we could.”
Munley paced the Cougars with 186 kills to go along with 23 aces and 92 digs. Loadholt had 169 kills, 128 digs and 20 aces.
“Once they came to Spanish Springs as freshmen, it changed the culture of our volleyball team. It raised the level of athleticism. Both those areas just changed a lot,” Sandomenico said. “Those girls were all three- or four-year players on varsity. It just made volleyball a special sport. I think it really influenced other girls wanting to play volleyball. It made our jobs a lot easier as coaches.”
Spanish Springs also has several players returning that hopefully will carry on the tradition.
Junior middle blocker Gabby Szachara was also named to the first team all-league list after leading the team with 38 blocks. She finished with 104 kills in league.
The team’s second setter, Hannah Meadows, was selected to the second team with libero Brandi Brucato earning an honorable mention.
“I think it’s going to pay off a ton. When you look at Hannah, Gabby and Brandi, they played real key roles in that weekend at state,” Sandomenico said. “Our other five returning seniors that we have, just practicing and playing with those girls, it just means everything. We had our first (unofficial) practice the other night, and we looked really good. You expect that tradition to carry over now.
“We’ll talk about it and tell them to just be themselves because we believe they bring a lot to the table. We’re not looking for them to replace Lyndsey Anderson or Melly Munley because you can’t.”
The returners look forward to defending their High Desert League and state championships.
“It’s going to be hard building a new team after losing all of them because they’re such strong players. It will be fun learning and playing with new people,” Meadows said. “We will just work hard and try to get close to this year.”