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Gila Ridge runs out of gas against Lake Havasu in Yuma High tournament
By the time the Gila Ridge volleyball team finished its semifinal thriller against River Valley in the 10-team Colorado River Volleyball Challenge, it might not have had enough fuel left for Lake Havasu.
After waiting patiently for the Hawks to survive their match against the Dust Devils, the Knights took advantage of a worn-out Gila Ridge squad and won 21-9, 21-6 in the championship Saturday at Yuma High.
“I think we ran out of gas. We went back and forth in that third game (against River Valley) and we played three games, so I think that took a lot out of us,” Gila Ridge coach Colleen Ford said. “But Havasu is a tough team. I think it was a combination of the two.”
The match the Hawks had against the Dust Devils gave Gila Ridge every reason to not have much left for a talented Lake Havasu team. After Gila Ridge won the first game 21-12, it struggled in the second and let River Valley take the second 21-13. Then things got interesting.
After the third game was tied 9-9, the teams went back and forth with no team taking a lead larger than one until Gila Ridge finally won it 17-15 on a tip shot by senior outside hitter Nikki Kelland. There were six in the final game, including 15-15 after a kill by River Valley senior Ashlee Smith.
“It was really intense, there was a lot of pressure,” Gila Ridge senior libero Anahi Torres said.
“When we got down in the past, if we let one go, we'd lose three (points). And I think mentally they pushed themselves every point to play that hard,” Ford said.
The Hawks' reward was having to immediately play the Knights, who swept Gila Ridge in a regular match on Sept. 19. The Hawks jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead in the first game, but Lake Havasu regained the advantage and never trailed the rest of the way.
To get to the championship, the Knights had to get past Yuma Catholic, which already beat Lake Havasu 21-20 in a wild pool play match earlier in the tournament.
“It was a fun match to watch in pool play because it was two teams who wouldn't let the ball hit the ground,” Yuma Catholic coach Maris Grasis said. “Both swinging and digging even to the point where one of the referees clapped after a point because it was such a back-and-forth battle.”
The Shamrocks, who came into the tournament on a six-match winning streak, jumped out to an 8-5 lead over the Knights in the first game but couldn't sustain the lead. In the second game, the Shamrocks led 10-9, but once again Lake Havasu gradually pulled away to finish its 21-15, 21-14 semifinal win.
“To play them twice, once beating them in pool play and again in the semifinal, we played them really tough and I'm really proud of the girls,” Grasis said.
Although the tournament wins don't affect Arizona Interscholastic Association Power Points, both Grasis and Ford felt the one-day tournament was invaluable.
“As far as record-wise? (It means) nothing. As far as confidence and building? Very important,” Grasis said.
“They're really important — emotionally and mentally, they're very important,” Ford said. “We fought today and I think they learned a lot.”
The tournament, put on by Yuma High, had 10 schools from all over the area — including six of the eight local teams, as well as Lake Havasu, River Valley, Mohave and Imperial. While considering the tournament a success, Yuma High coach Tish Malone said she has her eyes on expanding it next season.
“We want to grow this tournament and attract more schools. We want to get it big enough to where people say, ‘Hey, what's going on over here?'”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.