NEEDLES — Laughlin’s Coach Bryan Crabtree and Needles’ Coach Patricia Phelps agreed on two things after their teams’ recent match.
The first of those two is they both would have liked to win all the games.
The hosting Lady ’Stangs played five games to split their last volleyball matches of the season with NIAA 2A South League rivals the Lady Cougars in the Needles Corral.
Laughlin won games one and two 25-19 and 25-22.
Needles won the third game 25-22. Laughlin won the fourth 25-17. Needles won the nightcap 16-14.
The second thing both agreed on is their respective teams have bright futures. The Lady ’Stangs graduate three seniors this year; the Lady Cougars four.
“We’re a young team,” said Phelps. “Most are sophomores. They’re learning and getting those skills.”
“Overall, our season was good,” said Crabtree. “We split with Lincoln County this year, which we’ve never done since I’ve been at Laughlin. We split with Needles, we’ve never done that since I’ve been at Laughlin. So those are two good things. We just have to work a little harder and finish in the top four so we can keep our season going. I lose four seniors next year but I think we’ll be alright.”
Laughlin jumped out to a commanding lead early in the night, running the score up to 10-0 in the first game before Needles got on the board. Ashley Bishop and Lexi Swain-McKay displayed power on the front line; Savannah Santillano was a force all over the court.
“We play good volleyball,” said Crabtree. “It’s all about serves and I got some really strong serves from Santillano. The other girls stepped it up. It didn’t end like I wanted it to but I’m happy.”
The Lady ’Stangs stepped up their play in the second game, with the sets beginning to even out to let Riley Breaux pound away at the Laughlin opponents, putting Needles up 13-10 before Laughlin started to catch up.
“I’m going to miss those seniors,” said Phelps. “Riley (Breaux) is an awesome middle hitter, server and team leader. Ally (Pletcher) played wherever I needed her to play. Isabel (Zuniga) came in late and it was her first year but I enjoyed having her on the team.”
The remainder of the night was a see-saw, with neither team able to form anything approaching a decisive advantage.
Needles sophomore Savannah Hazlewood found a flaw in Laughlin’s approach during Game 3. The Lady Cougars started sending floaters over the net that she promptly killed to send the Lady ‘Stangs up 13-7. Breaux fired up and took it to 16-9. Crabtree talked to his team, Santillano and company fired back and closed the gap to 17-15.
Game Four was tied at nine, then 10, before Laughlin began pulling away. Game Five was tied at 13 and 14 before Needles scored the last two points.
“Laughlin is always a great passing team,” said Phelps. “We just had some mistakes here and there; little mistakes that cost us. I wish we would have won both but (the split) is better than a loss.”
“Needles is always good,” said Crabtree. “I enjoy coming down here and playing them. They’ve got a fun crowd and that part was nice. I just would have liked to win all of them.”