In front of two jumping, screaming and chanting student sections, the Cougars forced a fifth game after winning the fourth and scored the final four points in the deciding fifth game to complete the home comeback, 25-18, 22-25, 12-25, 25-23, 16-14 over the Raiders.
Spanish Springs' large white-out student section of approximately 125 stormed the court after Hannah Meadows drilled home the match winning point off a Raider block attempt. Meadows led the Cougars with an all-around stellar game finishing with 28 assists, 13 digs, 10 kills, four aces and a block
“It’s just a fun year,” Spanish Springs coach Frank Sandomenico said. “It’s gut wrenching though. I’m not going to lie. “
The Cougars improved to 18-5, 9-1 in league while the Raiders dropped below .500 in league meetings for the first time this season at 10-7, 4-5 in league.
Despite being stuck with the loss, Reed put together one of its best all-around matches of the season behind the gutsy and emotional performance of Mo Maluotoga. The senior standout finished with a match-high 20 kills, 16 digs, three blocks and a pair of aces.
“I told my girls, yes it definitely hurts a little bit because we lost… but overall I’m proud of how my team played,” Reed coach Kris Flagtvedt said. “They have improved every game and if they continue that, I am OK with it.”
The Raiders played particularly well in the third game, downing the Cougars 25-12. The game was so lopsided neither coach had an explanation.
Sandomenico said it was the worst “butt kicking” one of his teams has received in a game including a first-game 25-12 shellacking to Green River in the opening round of the state tournament last year.
“I have no idea,” Flagtvedt said of the lopsided score. “I thought we served well so that helped and I think Spanish Springs maybe let us get in their head a little bit because I saw them make some mistakes they don’t normally make.”
But the turning point in the match for the Cougars came at the end of the third-game blowout. Trailing 24-7, Spanish Springs picked up momentum scoring five straight points. During a timeout in the five-point run, the Cougars players huddled amongst themselves on the court while the frustrated coaching staff stood on the sideline.
“When it gets to be a point where there is nothing else I can say or do, it’s on them,” Sandomenico said. “We won this game tonight because they decided they wanted to win.”
Meadows took control in the huddle and her message to the team was simple: “I pretty much just said that we really need to pick it up and that was really embarrassing.”
The feeling of embarrassment was short-lived for Meadows and the Cougars who jumped out to a 10-4 lead in the fourth game before hanging on to a 25-23 win.
In the fifth game, Reed got to match point twice but was unable to finish the Cougars who rattled off four straight points to notch the first leg of the Sparks rivalry.
Spanish Springs’ Gabby Szachara was a force at the net, finishing with 10 blocks and six kills. Tayler Lodge’s 14 kills led the team and she chipped in eight digs.
Reeds’ Emilie Braun finished with a healthy stat line of her own, turning in 18 kills and 16 digs. Annie Braun put together a versatile performance with 44 assists, nine digs, two aces, two blocks and a kill. Maddie Funk challenged Szachara at the net, throwing in 10 kills, nine blocks, two digs and an assist.
Flagtvedt and Sandomenico both were impressed by the two student sections which sent colorful chants back and forth the entire match.
“It was fun. I think it’s nice when you have those fans because normal volleyball matches don’t get that amount of fans,” Flagtvedt said. “I had to yell in timeouts to yell over the noise … Both teams probably enjoyed having the fans and being able to play in that environment because it doesn’t happen all the time.”
“You can’t ask for a better environment for female athletics,” Sandomenico said. “This is as good as it gets.”
The Cougars have Wednesday off before hosting North Valleys Thursday. Sandomenico gave his girls the night off because many showed up at the school at 3 a.m. for the recording of Good Morning America in the gym. Spanish Springs was selected by Katy Perry as one of five finalists in the country for her to perform a private concert because of a video the school submitted in Perry’s contest.
The Raiders will look to even their league record Thursday at home against Reno.