In the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC) postseason tournament, the Portland Pilots fell to the University of Nevada Las Vegas Rebels, 3-1.
The Pilots started out cold in the first set and the Rebels went on a big run. Portland was always a point or two behind the Rebels. The Rebels’ offense placed their hits on the court where the Pilots weren’t covering.
Portland fought for critical plays, closing the point gap and eventually surpassing UNLV with smart hits and strong serves. The Pilots won the first set, 25-19, after a ten point comeback.
“I think they understand that competitors compete when the opportunity presents itself,” head coach Jeff Baxter said of the postseason play. “This gave us the opportunity to compete and I thought they rose to that occasion.”
The Pilots came hard into the second set, with junior setter Cali Thompson starting with two ace serves. The whole team came together to win long, scrappy rallies.
Reghan Pukis scored points off of some killer swings against the school she attended her freshman year.
“It’s a little bittersweet, my roommate is still on that team from my freshman year and I remember when all those girls were getting recruited,” Pukis said. “There’s a little more emotional investment but I tried to treat it like any other match.”Las Vegas made a comeback from Portland’s early lead, and the Pilots fell to the Rebels in this set, 19-25.
“I think we had a focus this entire postseason of just taking things point by point and rally by rally and not getting ahead of ourselves or doing too much or too little, just doing your job,” Pukis said.
For the first ten points of the third set, the two teams went point-for-point. The Pilots offense swung hard and deep and their back row, led by sophomore libero Carey Williams, was scrappy and steady with serve-receive passing.
The Pilots offense used the Rebel block in their favor — tooling is a technique hitters use to turn the opponent’s block against itself.
The Pilots lost the third set, 30-28, after several long, intense rallies. There were plays where the Pilots played it safe and tipped the ball, giving the Rebels the opportunity to counter.
The Rebels came into the fourth set swingin more aggressively than they had all game, going on a run after reaching ten points. The Pilots’ attacks were met by Las Vegas’ tough block.
The Pilots lost the final set, 20-25, ending their journey in the postseason NIVC tournament.
“The girls just really owned it and every single game were just going to leave it out there,” Pukis said. “I think the younger girls absolutely stepped up and did amazing. They are absolutely set for next year, it’ll be exciting to see what they’re going to do next year.”
Morgan Wahler is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at email@example.com.