Though the season might not have ended the way the White Pine High School volleyball team would’ve liked, their Division III State Championship runner-up title capped off a historic season for the Ladycats. Their appearance in the tournament was the first time the team had made it in in 10 years. Their championship game on Nov. 15 against the defending state champions Yerington was the first time the Ladycats played for a title in 20 years. The Ladycats finished with a 15-1 league record and 24-7 overall.
According to Ladycats coach Kenna Almberg, the successful season and championship run should be the thing players take away from this season, not the loss at the end.
“I know that the girls were upset over the loss but Division III State Runner ups is definitely something to be proud of,” Almberg said. “We had a great successful season with lots of improvement in our team connection and mental toughness.”
The road to the championship game started in Reno on Nov. 14 against a formidable Incline team. Playing in a best of five series, the Ladycats traded blows with the Highlanders, losing the first game 16-25 then rallying back to win the next two razor close games 26-24 and 25-23. After the first three games, the final two were played to just 15 points. Again the Ladycats found themselves in a battle with an equally skilled Highlander team, narrowly losing the fourth game 14-15 and then winning the deciding game 15-13.
Almberg credited the parents and fans that made the trip to Reno for helping motivate the team through the close games.
“The crowd got their moneys worth on that one, it was pretty intense,” the coach said.
The win against Incline earned the team the chance to play for the state championship against the team they had been preparing for since the beginning of the season, Yerington. Almberg described the day as an “awesome experience” with the increased level of media presence and high anticipation for the game.
The Ladycats knew that Yerington would be tough, having never beaten them in volleyball, and the Lions proved their might right in the first game 15-25. Almberg said that the Lions made playing defense a struggle, as Yerington hitters started by tipping balls around blockers to open spots on the court. When the coach made an adjustment to try to account for the tactic by pulling a blocker back to cover more ground, the Lions started hitting through the single blocks.
After the shock of the first loss wore off though, the Ladycats started to turn things around. The second game proved to be the closest of the championship series, with the Ladycats losing in extra points 24-26. It was an all out team effort that fell just short of the mark, which led to a frustrating lopsided final third game loss 12-25, Almberg said.
Despite the loss, six Ladycats were mentioned on the All-Division teams. In addition, Team captains Ashlyn Huntington and Jaden Ernest both were All-State team selections, Debra Kingston made second team and Almberg was voted co-coach of the year along with Yerington’s coach.