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Toss up: Century’s sweep of I.F. creates tie for first in district

Idaho Falls’ Laurel Taylor sends the ball over the net for a kill in Tuesday’s match with Century at Idaho Falls High School. The Diamondbacks swept the Tigers. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

Tuesday’s volleyball match at Idaho Falls High School between Century and Idaho Falls began as a battle for No. 1 and ended with two No. 1s.

Century swept defending district champion Idaho Falls 25-18, 25-22, 25-20 to create a tie for first in the 4A District 5-6 standings and give the Tigers a 1-1 split on senior night for Katie Montgomery, Emma Carvo, Samantha Palmer and Tiffany Schwendiman.

Earlier in the evening, Idaho Falls defeated Pocatello 25-17, 25-16, 25-22.

Century’s Jacquelyn Christensen sends the ball over the net for a kill in Tuesday’s match against Idaho Falls at Idaho Falls High School. The Diamondbacks swept the Tigers. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

The Diamondbacks and Tigers, who played for last year’s 4A District 5-6 championship, have identical conference records of 8-1 with one regular season conference match remaining. Although there was some speculation, neither head coach was certain Tuesday evening what the official tiebreaker procedure would be to determine the No. 1 seed and right to host for next week’s district tournament. They both said they will know by the conclusion of their final regular season matches.

Their lone conference losses are to each other.

Idaho Falls defeated Century 3-1 in their previous meeting on Sept. 14 in Pocatello. Century head coach Breanne Robinson said the biggest difference between Sept. 14 and Tuesday was the Diamondbacks’ improvement in serving and defense.

“That match up, we were struggling with serving,” Robinson said. “Defensively, we were unsure and weren’t as confident as we are now. It’s been fun to see them get to where we are now from where we were at the beginning of the season. We’ve improved a ton.”

A spark plug for the Diamondbacks in Tuesday’s match was outside hitter Zoe Thiros. The junior, who committed to Gonzaga over the summer, helped Century extend its lead in the first set, overcome a deficit as large as seven points in the second set and fittingly had the kill to end the third set and the match.

Idaho Falls coach Laurel Craynor said the Tigers weren’t fully prepared for Thiros.

“She has a heavy arm,” Craynor said. “She can put it down. That can be intimidating.”

Idaho Falls head coach Laurel Craynor speaks to her team during a timeout in Tuesday’s match against Century at Idaho Falls High School. John Roark / jroark@postregister.com

Craynor and Robinson both agreed Thiros has some similarities to 2017 Idaho Falls graduate and 2015 Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year Maya Taylor, now playing for St. Louis University. Taylor and Thiros were club volleyball teammates in the Idaho Falls Juniors, and they made for intense battles across the net last fall when Idaho Falls and Century met five times in their first season as conference opponents.

“They’re both super powerful hitters,” Robinson said. “Zoe, she’s so smart. She has the firepower to back it up.”

The Tigers and Diamondbacks traded leads early in the first set, which was point for point for a while. Century maintained a two-point lead halfway through before stretching it to four and ending the set on a 6-2 run. The second set began point for point as the teams traded errors. The Tigers took leads as large as 13-7 and 15-8 in the set, using tipping to their advantage.

“We have a team that can hit the ball hard,” Craynor said. “You can swing and swing and swing and then throw a tip in there.”

The Diamondbacks responded with a 17-7 run, including seven unanswered, to end the set.

The third set again began point for point, but after taking a 4-3 lead, Century led by at least four the rest of the way except for one moment when I.F. cut the deficit to 19-18.

Both coaches called the I.F.-Century match a highly anticipated one. Craynor said the anticipation, combined with senior night emotions, may have been a source of errors in Tuesday’s match.

“The Century-I.F. match is always high intensity,” Craynor said. “That’s partially where the errors come from. You start to do things that are uncharacteristic of you.”

Robinson said the I.F. match was one she looked forward to as a volleyball player for Highland High School. The same is true now as a Century coach, and the battle for the district tournament’s No. 1 seed gave her players extra motivation Tuesday.

“It’s always awesome to win at I.F.,” Robinson said. “They always have a team that is gonna give you a run for your money.”

Idaho Falls (21-16) plays Thursday at Skyline in its regular season finale.

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