TWIN FALLS — For the second straight year, the Dietrich High School volleyball team entered the Lions Den for its season-opener.
The Lighthouse Christian crowd was loud and the team looked as fearsome as ever. The gym was a lions den in every sense of the word.
The Blue Devils subdued the Lions in the first set, but Ligthhouse responded with three straight dominant sets to earn a 20-25, 25-8, 25-17, 25-13 win in Tuesday’s season-opener.
“We knew that Dietrich was gonna come at us strong,” Lighthouse senior Haylee Grossman said. “But we were ready for it.”
In 2014, the Lions beat the Blue Devils in the 1A Division II state championship match. A year later, both teams met in the third place/winner-to-title game, and Lighthouse prevailed again. The Lions beat Dietrich twice last year, including in the season-opener, but both teams made it to state again. Dietrich went 2-2, and Lighthouse won the title.
So Dietrich coach Traci Perron knows Lighthouse well. But she didn’t sense any extra buzz on Tuesday night.
“It’s just Lighthouse,” she said.
Perron wasn’t trying to minimize the Lions, nor was she utilizing a coach’s cliche that all games and opponents are equal. Dietrich and Lighthouse have played often the last several years. They consider each other rivals, but they’re also so familiar with each other, the intensity has worn off a bit.
Intensity was no problem for the Lighthouse and Dietrich fans on Tuesday, but the home team struggled to channel the energy in the first set.
The Lions led 3-2 in the first set, but Dietrich quickly took the lead and kept it.
“The first set was a little rougher than I expected it to be,” Lighthouse coach Tobie Helman said. “We were super quiet the first set. We weren’t really working the first set, which kind of makes sense because some of those girls have played together a long time, but some of them haven’t at all.”
The Blue Devils also led 3-1 early in the second set. That was the largest lead they’d build the rest of the match.
Behind the serves of sophomore Maycee Holloway, Lighthouse rattled off nine straight points to take an 11-3 lead. The Lions outscored the Blue Devils 14-5 the rest of the way to take the set handily.
The final two sets weren’t much closer, especially early on. Dietrich was missing junior Matigan Bingham, who suffered a sprained ankle, and was smaller than Lighthouse. Those factors helped turn the tide in the Lions’ favor.
“Size-wise, we’re outmatched,” Perron said. “I said, ‘We can’t play their game. You’ve gotta play with a little more heart, a little more defense.’”
Grossman led Lighthouse with 17 kills, 10 digs and two blocks. Junior Gracie Cover had 11 kills, Holloway and senior Chloe Gomez each had nine digs, and senior Sabrina De Jong had 32 assists.
For Dietrich, senior Jaxen Eggleston had 11 kills and two blocks, and junior Brianna Astle had 14 assists.
“It was a good match,” Helman said. “I’m really looking forward to playing them later in the season, too.”
Lighthouse next plays at Carey on Thursday, and Dietrich plays at Oakley the same day.