Their pink jerseys weren't the only similarity.
One of the most competitive East-West volleyball matches in recent history provided entertainment to several hundred fans Thursday evening at Mike Marr Gym. Host Robertson prevailed with patience and poise that ultimately overcame West Las Vegas' energy in the decisive game four.
For a time it appeared as though the Lady Cardinals, veterans of a run to the state final in 2007, would sweep the match. RHS won 25-19 and 25-23 in games one and two. But a gritty effort by the Lady Dons in game three, parlayed into a 26-24 win, kept them in the match. And West led most of the way through the fourth game before the home team chipped away and finished strong for a 26-24 decision.
On a night dedicated to breast cancer awareness, the gym was awash in pink. It was a stirring sight as both squads eschewed their usual school colors in favor of pink "Volley for the Cure" jerseys. Players on both sides also wore pink ribbons in their hair, and the Lady Cards wore matching pink socks. Streamers of pink and white adorned the length of the railing on the top level of the facility. Robertson coach Raynee Trujillo and her staff wore the same shirts as the players. WLV coach Brian Gurule sported a pink tie. And plenty of spectators also got into the spirit with pink attire. Gate proceeds have been earmarked for donation to the "Volley for the Cure" effort, as were dollars collected from several fundraisers involving both high schools.
On the court itself, both varsity teams showed signs of progress. West fared better in terms of passing the ball and shoring up the back row defense, a weakness to date. Robertson found the push for a strong finish in its games, something with which the team has struggled.
Game one was a series of runs. Robertson started slowly as West took a 3-0 head start. But with Kassandra Tapia at the service line, the Lady Cards embarked on a run of 13 straight points. West then reeled off six in a row to make it 13-9. RHS held on to the lead, and a kill by Tapia made it 23-18. West's Linda Esquibel scored with a slam, but Brooke Knezevich and Julie Franken closed out the game with consecutive kills.
Again in game two, the Lady Dons scored the first three points, and after a good exchange, an ace by Lisa Sanchez gave West a 6-5 edge. It stayed a nip and tuck game the rest of the way.
One highlight came when West's Karla Gallegos mishandled a pass, teammate Arissa Garcia went deep to keep the ball barely in play, and then Gallegos recovered to pass the ball from the backcourt up and over into RHS territory; eventually the volley ended with an Esquibel kill.
But bad passes enabled Robertson to overtake West. Jessica Sandoval's ace off Knezevich tied the game at 23, but the Lady Dons couldn't return the ball on the next play. And a Robertson ace closed the game, 25-23.
In game three, West had another strong start but was able to sustain the momentum, capping a run with a Gallegos kill to seize a 10-5 advantage. The Lady Cards rallied with Marka Garcia and then Marin Schweigert serving with precision. Kills by Knezevich and Franken, followed by a Tapia ace, knotted the score at 16. West responded, however, and the score was either tied or a WLV lead until Marka Garcia's serve was mishandled and RHS took a 24-23 edge. After a long volley -- one of the few on this night -- a Tapia spike went just wide, tying the game. Arissa Garcia followed that break with an ace off Schweigert. Then Esquibel and a teammate paired up for a block that finished the 26-24 win for WLV.
Game four stayed tight, neither team making serious runs. An errant RHS pass followed by a Gallegos kill gave West a 23-20 lead. But Knezevich roared back with a spike and a Vanessa Lucero attack went wide, and it was 23-22. A Robertson service error gave the Lady Dons game point at 24-22, but Franken's kill and a bad pass by Arissa Garcia tied the game at 24. Knezevich scored on a block to put the Lady Cards up, and Franken slammed a ball off Sandoval to clinch the victory.
RHS is now 9-6 and 3-2 in District 2-3A; WLV is 6-9 and 2-3, respectively.