Of course, the Panthers say that before every match.
The pep talk worked Tuesday night as Snohomish swept Lake Stevens 25-21, 25-16 and 25-21 in a Wesco 4A volleyball match at Snohomish High School, handing the Vikings their first league loss of the season.
"It was business as usual," Snohomish head coach Alex Tarin said. "Before every match we say, 'This match is the most important match of the season.'"
Still, Tuesday's match was a bit bigger than the average match and the Panthers wanted to make a big statement in their home gymnasium against one of the top teams in their league.
"That was our goal. We believed we could beat them 3-0," Tarin said. "? That was our first complete game we've had all season from start to finish."
Lake Stevens scored first in every set but never led by more than three. Neither team led by more than four points in the first set, which was a back-and-forth battle throughout.
The Vikings again got out to an early lead in the second set with a 9-7 advantage before Snohomish rattled off five straight points to make it 12-9. After Lake Stevens got one back, The Panthers scored four more consecutive points to begin to pull away in their most dominant set of the night.
"We tried to serve tough," Tarin said. "We have hitters, we believe, that can take us to state."
One of those is star outside hitter Lanesha Reagan, who finished the game with 18 kills, 12 digs and six aces.
Reagan is a player that the league -- including the visiting coach -- knows is a force.
"You know that they have Lanesha. She's not a surprise," Vikings' head coach Dawn Hanson said.
In the third and final set, Snohomish led most of the way. Lake Stevens made a run toward the end, but Kendle Valade-Nunez set up a Reagan spike to end the match.
Valade-Nunez finished with 14 assists and Kyla Mellick had 10 kills, 12 digs and six aces for Snohomish (7-1 league, 10-2 overall). Sophomore libero Cyrene Hertzog had 14 digs and 14 assists and Emmalee McNeil added 18 assists for the Panthers which moved to the top of the Wesco 4A standings with the win.
Lake Stevens (7-1, 9-3) was led by Emily Vandegrift who had a team-high eight kills. The Vikings also got strong serving performances from Molli Drivdahl (10-for-10 serving, one ace) and Alexis Alverson (nine-for-nine serving, one ace).
"They play very well as a team," Tarin said of Lake Stevens. "They are well coached, good in the middle and have great hitters."
Hanson said that Lake Stevens is looking forward to a potential rematch with the Panthers in the district tournament, which starts Nov. 2.
"It was a big game, but it's one game," Hanson said. "It's not our season."
It was a hard-fought game, with vocal fans on both sides -- one of which erupted into cheers at the end of every point. Tarin said there is a good rivalry between Snohomish and Lake Stevens because a lot of the players are on the same club teams.
"Whenever we play Lake Stevens it's always a fun atmosphere," Tarin said. "It's a good rivalry between the teams."
Tarin said the Panthers won't relax now that they're tied for first place. With the rest of the league gunning for them, he believes now they have to work even harder.
"I told the girls that all this means is we have to work extra hard in practice," Tarin said, "and get ready for our next opponent."
That next opponent is Monroe (4-2, 7-3 going into Tuesday night's contest against Mount Vernon), which Snohomish faces on Thursday in the Panthers' most important match of the season.
At Snohomish H.S.
Lake Stevens 21 16 21 -- 0
Snohomish 25 25 25 -- 3
Highlights–Lake Stevens: Emily Vandegrift eight kills; Molli Drivdahl 10-for-10 serving, one ace; Alexis Alverson (9-for-9 serving, one ace). Snohomish: Lanesha Reagan 18 kills, 12 digs, six aces; Kyla Mellick 10 kills, 12 digs, six aces; Cyrene Hertzog 14 digs, 14 assists. Records–Lake Stevens 7-1 league, 9-3 overall. Snohomish 7-1, 10-2.
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