WINSLOW, Ariz. – The energy level favored the Monument Valley Lady Mustangs on Tuesday night with its fan base.
But the tempo of the game benefited second seed Snowflake as the much taller Lady Lobos advanced to its third consecutive 3A state title game.
Snowflake swept MV in straight sets at Winslow High School. The set scores were 25-18, 25-22 and 25-16.
“Playing in the final four brings a lot of competition no matter what side of the bracket you’re on,” MV coach Rennell Gilmore said. “This is the first time we’ve been this far in years, so this experience is gonna do us big for the next few years.”
In its quarterfinal win over Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin on Saturday night, the MV coach praised her team for staying poised in the tough competitive moments. But on Tuesday night, Snowflake played with steely confidence to give the Mustangs its only conference loss this season.
“The mental toughness got the best of us,” Gilmore said. “We were able to handle it in the first and second set.”
In all three sets, Snowflake was able to reach the 20-point plateau first. And though MV rallied, the Lobos were able to snuff out the win in those sets.
“We did get leads here and there, which was awesome,” Gilmore said. “We just lost our grip as it got closer to 25.
“It went back and forth for a while,” the MV coach said of the rallies. “They had theirs and we had ours. At the end, they finished out the sets.”
Snowflake coach Jamie Robinson felt that her team stayed composed during those crucial point swings.
“That was big because we know how good Monument Valley is,” Robinson said. “I mean, they’re scrappy, they swing hard and when they get the momentum, we have to work hard to put a stop to it because when they get one, it’s hard to stop.
“They’re a great team,” she added. “We had to calm our girls down so that we could get that pass, and getting the ball back was huge for us.”
In the opening set, MV erased a three-point deficit and opened a 10-8 lead following an ace from senior Naomi Benally.
The Mustangs, however, tossed in three consecutive hitting errors. Snowflake took advantage of that as they pushed its lead to 18-13 on a kill by junior outside hitter Chelsea Caskey.
MV got as close as 20-17 but the Lobos ended the set on a 5-1 run.
Snowflake carried that momentum into the next set by taking a 7-1 lead that prompted Gilmore to burn a timeout. The Mustangs responded in a big way as MV put down six kills and served over two aces. Coupled with seven Snowflake errors, MV led 15-11.
“We knew that Snowflake was going to come out strong, so we had to come back stronger,” said Benally, who had three kills in that run.
But the Robinson-coached team rallied with a 4-0 run to tie the game at 15-all. The two teams then traded side outs with Snowflake holding a slight 21-20 edge. The Lobos then put away three kills to end the set.
“We wanted to make sure we…
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