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Hidden Valley Takes Region 3D Volleyball Title; Ponn Reaches 1,000 Kills

There were two certainties entering Tuesday night’s Region 3D volleyball championship game at Hidden Valley High School.

First, both Hidden Valley and visiting Tunstall were assured of advancing to the state Class-3 tournament quarterfinals beginning Saturday. Likewise, it was a done deal that one of these two teams was going to see its undefeated record come to an end, Hidden Valley entering the night at 28-0 and their counterparts from Dry Fork sitting at an impressive 27-0.

Titan junior Shae Torrence (#3 in blue) drops a shot over Tunstall’s middle hitter Carlie Marshall (#11) during the Region 3D title game at Hidden Valley.

Taking advantage of some major issues in Tunstall’s serve-receive execution, Hidden Valley rolled to the 25-14; 25-10; 25-13 sweep to earn the right to open the quarterfinals Saturday against Rustburg in the Titan gym. It will be a repeat of last season’s matchup where Rustburg ended Hidden Valley’s season with a 3-2 state semifinal nail biter.

Tunstall’s back line struggled mightily to keep the Hidden Valley serve prowess at bay all evening, leading to lost points out of the gate or soft shots across the net that the Titans easily played into assists, sets and blasts that had the feel of a shooting gallery.

“Our serve-receive problems on their deep serves were the story of the match,” Tunstall head coach Cheryl Cockram noted after her team’s first setback of the season. “We’ll look at everything at practice to make changes and get this straightened out.”

Tunstall travels to Fort Defiance to open state play.

Another factor Tuesday night was the firepower at the net of sophomore Caleigh Ponn, who blistered the Trojans with 24 kills to go along with 6 apiece from senior Abby Crosser and sophomore Sophie Arnold. Although Tunstall had several back-in-your-face blocks, the Titans had too many weapons to throw at the visitors and keep a huge Tunstall fan base on hand from being a factor.

“We knew Hidden Valley was a very good team coming into the match,” Tunstall senior outside hitter Gracie Rigney pointed out. “Even with a loss, we’re still in the running and need to work some things out. We just need to improve our receiving. Hidden Valley’s shot making didn’t surprise us.”

Hidden Valley players hoist the Region 3D championship trophy after their 3-0 sweep of the Tunstall Trojans.

The Titans opened the first set with leads of 7-5, 9-7 and 15-8 before Tunstall reeled off five straight points to close to 15-13. Hidden Valley answered with a decisive 10-1 run that ended the opener and put the Trojans on their heels.

The second set had Tunstall trailing only 5-4 before a 6-0 Titan blitz ran the margin to 11-4. The Titans kept coming and went up 19-9 before a final 6-1 point rush ended the set.

Any designs of a Tunstall come back were put to rest when Hidden Valley opened the third with a 9-1 run. Although Tunstall had a brief scoring streak to close to within 5, 11-6, Hidden Valley took the score to match-point at 24-11 before ending things three points later. Ponn’s laser kill at the 23-11 mark was the 1,000th of her career, accomplished amazingly in less than two years on the Titan varsity.

Juniors Lauren Whitaker and Kendall Wolfe fired 6 and 5 service aces, respectfully, for the Titans. Whitaker brought up 16 digs with sophomore Cali Anderson adding 12 digs and setting the table for the Hidden Valley offense with 34 assists.

Titan head coach Carla Ponn, mother of the younger Caleigh, was named Region 3D Coach of the Year during the post-match awards.

Bill Turner


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