South Tahoe volleyball downs Elko in five-set thriller, sweeps Spring Creek to start league play
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — The South Tahoe volleyball team opened Div. I-A Northern League play against Elko on Friday, Sept. 11, and knocked off the defending league champions in a thriller. The Vikings rallied to beat the Indians in five sets 25-17, 22-25, 21-25, 25-8, 15-11 at the Blue Gym, delivering a strong result in their league debut.
“I can’t even describe how great it felt,” Vikings outside hitter Paige Naccarato said. “It’s such an important match — now we’re going out stronger and it boosts our confidence.”
South Tahoe (1-1, 1-0 I-A Northern) closed out a back-and-forth first set with a 10-1 run to take the lead, clinching the opening frame on a kill from outside hitter Novel Moses. Elko (1-6, 0-1) took the next two frames by narrow margins to jump in front.
“In the games we lost, we were sloppy, had unforced errors and lost our composure,” Vikings head coach Dan McLaughlin said. “We were trying to win every point instead of knowing it’s OK to tie a few points and wait for our opportunities.”
The Vikings appeared headed for defeat after the third set, but quickly bounced back to tie the match. South Tahoe reeled off seven straight points — six on the serve of middle hitter Lexi Steinbergs — to take a 14-4 lead in the fourth set.
“We wanted to be the first ones to get the game going, so we decided that we might as well put it down now,” Naccarato said. “Our mindset was just to win.”
After going in front by double digits, South Tahoe rolled to a 25-8 victory. The Vikings won the last four points to comfortably force a fifth set — Steinbergs iced the frame with a kill.
“Game four was indicative of how good we can be,” McLaughlin said. “Elko had no answer.”
In the fifth set, South Tahoe scored the first four points and built an 11-4 advantage before holding on to win the match. The Vikings saw their lead shrink to 12-11 after an Elko run, but responded with three straight points — including a match-clinching ace from Naccarato.
“It was a really close call,” Naccarato said. “We got into ourselves and were too jittery, but we calmed down and came together.”
Naccarato was mobbed by her South Tahoe teammates at the service line after the ace. The Vikings were ecstatic after beating the defending league champions in dramatic fashion.
“Since they were so scrappy, we had to play scrappy and smart,” Naccarato said. “We really came back with our serves, and just coming back together and cheering each other up helped us to the win.”
Moses led South Tahoe with seven kills and three aces in the win, including an error-free fifth set. Middle hitter McKenna Brewer finished with six kills; Naccarato had five kills and four aces and Steinbergs added five kills.
Defensively, libero Kaitlynn Watson and outside hitter Nora Anderson anchored South Tahoe from the back row. Watson had three aces to go along with a stellar defensive performance.
“We outpassed and outserved them, and when we stopped making hitting errors we knew we would be good,” McLaughlin said. “If we control our mistakes, we have a bright future.”
The following afternoon, South Tahoe avoided a letdown by sweeping Spring Creek 25-14, 25-20, 25-10. The Vikings limited mistakes and hit .281 as a team on the way to their second win in as many days.
“The offense wasn’t strong, but it was controlled, it was good and it was efficient,” McLaughlin said. “We carved out chunks of points against Spring Creek because of our passing.”
Moses had a team-high nine kills Saturday and finished with a .363 hitting percentage to go along with 10 service points, four aces, two digs and a block. Brewer finished with five kills and five blocks, Naccarato added five kills and five aces, and Steinbergs had three kills, nine service points and an ace.
The Vikings passed at 2.12 as a team, giving setter Zoe Mosedale an average of two offensive options on each possession. Watson led the team with a passing score of 2.46 and tallied seven digs from the back row.
South Tahoe returns to action at home Tuesday, Sept. 15, for a non-league match against Incline at 6 p.m. The Vikings resume league play against Lowry at home on Friday, Sept. 18, at 6 p.m. and travel to play Fallon the following day at 2 p.m.
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