Incline volleyers rally falls short in state championships
SPARKS, Nev. — The Highlanders were loud pregame Friday night. They cheered and encouraged each other throughout warmups.
They were amped.
Incline fans and students body steadily streamed into the Reed High School gym in Sparks, Nevada and filled the bleachers behind their girls. By the time the volleyball match started it looked like the entire North Shore village was in attendance.
They were ready to cheer.
But then the match started and the Highlanders played nowhere near the style that got them through the Northern League season with a bunch of wins and just two losses and into the state championship tournament.
The first set was over dishearteningly fast and by the time Incline realized it might be the better team, it was too late.
The south state’s top-ranked Meadows School, from Las Vegas, defeated the No. 2 Highlanders 3-1 (25-9, 25-17, 18-25, 25-21) in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association 2A State Volleyball Championships.
“You know, if they woke up in the first two sets they would have beat them,” said Incline head coach Shana Moore. “It’ was just a rough loss because we were a lot better skill-wise but the girls just had some nerves and I guess that’s natural for a state championship game.”
The second set was better for Incline, but again found itself in an early hole. The Highlanders fought their way back and showed signs of what was to come.
Moore continued to smile at her team throughout the opening two sets and during timeouts where she kept a positive attitude.
“Our team, we all have very good chemistry and that’s what held us together and how we won the third set,” said senior Mikayla Racich. “I think that’s how we won the third set, we just pushed hard with no negativity on the court.”
Near the end of the second set, Yerington and Lincoln County, the other two teams in the state semifinals, entered the gym with their respective fan bases.
Yerington fans got seated and its players immediately started cheering for the Highlanders. The fan base soon got involved and the gym turned into a rocking home game for Incline, with fans on both sides of the gym.
Just before the third set, Incline student body stood up for the rest of the match and started chanting, “Let’s go Incline! Let’s go Incline!”
The third set was all Highlanders. From start to finish they held the advantage and kept Meadows at a distance, the lead never shrank below four on the way to winning the set.
“We played really well and I like the way we fought back from the beginning,” said senior Chandler Cohn. “It started out really rough, but I like how our team worked together to come back and fight for it.”
A few Lincoln County players, whose team was bludgeoned by Meadows in the regular season and the Southern region playoffs, showed surprise at Incline winning the third set and also pushing to win the fourth.
Nobody wanted the Mustangs to win, except of course their own supporters, but they were in the minority.
Incline trailed early in the fourth, 7-4, but within moments the Highlanders jumped ahead 10-8.
It was close from there until the final point.
Racich made a booming solo block to give Incline’s its last lead of the set, 17-16, before Meadows grabbed control.
“The final point, it was very emotional as you can see,” said Cohn, who wished the Highlanders had a couple more sets to play against Meadows. “Its hard, I’ve played with these girls for four years and it’s my favorite sport in the world and to see it come to an end it’s sad, but also happy to get to this point.”
The Highlanders may not have been better than Meadows Friday night, but they can take solace in the fact that they are smarter. They didn’t win the athletic state title, but they won the academic state championship.
The Highlanders right before the first serve were awarded a plaque that honored them for having the highest team grade point average out of any team, an amazing 3.87.
“We made it to state, what more could you ask for,” Moore said. “The support was amazing. When they say it takes a village, truly, all of Incline Village comes. But honestly, I’m gonna cry thinking about it. This team, they all gave everything they had for each other. It was truly a team and they always picked each other up. I am so proud of them.”