Truckee volleyball: Wolverines fall one set short of state title
In 18 matches leading up to the state final, two-time defending champion Faith Lutheran steamrolled its Division I-A volleyball competition without dropping a set.
Truckee needed all of one set to end that trend.
The Wolverines, riding their own impressive streak into the state tournament in Henderson, jumped out to an early lead and gave the Southern power all it could handle in the Division I-A state championship Saturday. Truckee could not seal the victory in its toughest divisional match of the season, however, and fell in five competitive sets, 25-23, 17-25, 24-26, 25-20, 8-15.
“I would still pick my team over Faith Lutheran in a heartbeat. If we played them tonight, I think we’d beat them,” Truckee coach Erika Murphy said. “It was that close of a match. I know Faith Lutheran might not have portrayed it that way with some of their comments (in the media), but we both knew that that match could have gone either way.”
State champs or not, Truckee players can hold their heads high after their collective body of work.
The Wolverines finished 26-9 overall and swept all 14 matches in league play, losing only one set along the way. They proceeded to win both matches in the regional tournament in straight sets, and set down No. 2 Southern seed Sierra Vista with ease in the state semifinal, 25-9, 25-11, 25-21.
“It’s been a really good season,” Murphy said. “They did extremely well.”
The Crusaders posted an overall record of 30-11 in their third consecutive championship season. With roughly twice the enrollment of Truckee and with the ability to recruit, the private Christian school has earned multiple state titles the Division I-A over the past few seasons — in a variety of sports — and is set to move back to the Division I next year based on the NIAA’s Southern Rubric system.
“Usually when we go to the South, it becomes apparently obvious that Truckee and South Tahoe, because we are California schools, are not super embraced. But this year — I think because Faith Lutheran is playing in a division that they probably should not be in because of their size and their ability to recruit — there were a lot of people who came up to me and said they wanted us to win,” Murphy said. “It was just a bummer to disappoint.”
The Wolverines made it known in the first set that they were up for the challenge. Using their power at the net and smooth passing, they built an early lead and hung on for the two-point victory. “I think we had a different rhythm on the court than what Faith was used to,” said Murphy, who described the Crusaders as a “disciplined, drill-oriented team.”
The champs bounced back to take the next two sets, including a third set in which Truckee battled back from a 13-21 deficit before falling 24-26.
“We started inching our way back up. Tatum Kula brought us back with her serving to tie it up, but we couldn’t close it out, which I think was crucial,” Murphy said. “I think we could have wrapped it up in the fourth.”
With their backs against the wall, the Wolverines evened the score with a five-point win in the fourth set, which set up a deciding fifth game to 15 points.
“The team that creates the biggest momentum in a short 15-point set like the fifth is most likely to win. Faith Lutheran did that,” Murphy said, adding that her players took the loss hard. “They were really upset afterwards. I think the part that was a bummer is that we made some mental errors at crucial times.”
The stats told the story of how evenly matched the two teams were. Led by junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek’s match-high 26 kills, Truckee tallied 59 kills on 176 attempts (33.5 percent); Faith Lutheran had 63 kills on 194 attempts (32.5 percent). Faith Lutheran served at 95.8 percent; Truckee served at 90 percent. Truckee recorded nine blocks; Faith Lutheran had seven.
As she did with her national champion club volleyball team this past summer, Dvoracek turned heads in the state tournament. In addition to her 26 kills, Truckee’s co-captain contributed two blocks, 18 digs and 31 assists. She also had a team-high 15 kills in the semifinal match to go along with her 10 digs and 25 assists.
In their final high school matches, senior outside hitter Anais Fay finished with 13 kills, two blocks, 14 digs and 61 serve returns, while senior middle hitter Maddie Haley challenged the Crusaders at the net and finished with seven kills, three blocks and two service aces.
“Maddison Haley gave us a really strong block that they had to work around. You could tell they didn’t face a block like that during their season unless it was against a bigger school like Bishop Gorman,” Murphy said.
Senior Katie Fisher added five kills, 20 digs and 13 serve returns, senior Tatum Kula had four kills and two blocks, and sophomore Maddie Bromley had three kills. Sophomore Jordan Brown also had 14 assists and Sierra Halberstadt had 12 serve returns.
Against Sierra Vista in the state semifinal, Bromley got the Wolverines going with eight straight service points to open the first set. She went on to finish with eight service aces and four kills. Fay posted 11 kills, eight digs and 27 serve returns, Fisher had four kills and nine digs, and Brown had 11 assists. Haley and Kula had three kills apiece.
Although the Wolverines are set to lose six seniors to graduation, they return three sophomores and three juniors, including Dvoracek, and have a promising group of freshmen coming up for future seasons.
“I don’t think you’ve seen the end of us yet,” Murphy said.