TWIN FALLS — More than halfway through the second set of Tuesday’s volleyball match between crosstown rivals Twin Falls High School and Canyon Ridge, the Twin Falls students in attendance began to chant louder than they had all contest.
“This is our town,” the crowd belted out.
At least for Tuesday night, they were right, as the Bruins steamrolled the host Riverhawks in three sets to remain unbeaten against Magic Valley teams since dropping to the 4A classification in 2009.
Twin Falls took the sets 25-16, 25-15, 25-17.
“I really enjoyed (the match),” said first-year Twin Falls head coach Andria Harshman. “I mean, let’s be honest, it was fun.”
The Bruins (6-1 overall, 5-1 Great Basin Conference) got off to a strong start, jumping out to a lead as large as four points. However, the Riverhawks (2-5, 2-4), behind a raucous home crowd, raised the intensity and tied it at 12-12 and 14-14.
Excluding the 0-0 score at the beginning of the remaining sets, Canyon Ridge didn’t get back on level terms until early in the third set.
Twin Falls’ consistency allowed the Bruins to keep the Riverhawks at bay, outscoring their rivals 11-2 after being tied to take the set.
A similar occurrence popped up in the second frame, with the Bruins taking a 10-4 lead and looking as if they were going to run away with it. Behind five straight points, the Riverhawks pulled within one, but a kill by Twin Falls sophomore outside hitter Kaitlin Evans ended the run.
Once again, the Bruins pulled it together and finished the set, outscoring Canyon Ridge 15-6 after the Riverhawks’ run. Senior outside hitter Taylor Burnham chalked it up to simply having fun.
“It was fun to play with our team,” Burnham said. “It was fun that we connected and worked hard. It was just fun.”
The only moments in the entire match in which Twin Falls trailed came in the third set. Despite taking a 5-0 lead, the Riverhawks battled to take leads of 6-5 and 7-6. But, for the third and final time, the Bruins were able to step up and take the set.
Harshman said her team hit snags as she experimented with different lineups and substitutions. It meant some mistakes were made early in sets, but the Bruins always figured things out in the end.
“Any time you’re trying something new, the first 10-15 points are kind of like a practice,” Harshman said. “That’s where we’re at, and then we took off when we needed to.”
Burnham led the way with 14 kills. At nearly five kills per set, Harshman called her numbers “astronomical.”
Time and again, when the Bruins were in need of a point to kill a Riverhawk run, however brief, Burnham popped up with thunderous spikes and vital hits to ensure that her team wouldn’t falter.
Despite her crucial contributions, Burnham refused to take all the credit.
“I did pretty decent,” Burnham said. “It’s definitely a team sport, and you rely on your team. My team did great, so I did great.”
Bruins senior setter Shelby Veenstra notched 36 assists, which Harshman labeled above and beyond the benchmark of 10 assists per set. Senior outside hitter Taylor Avram attempted 20 serves, more than double any other Bruin, meaning she was consistently helping to earn points from that position.
That trio, along with Gracie Mumford and Jorja Hadden, earned plenty of praise from Harshman as the group of five seniors that is helping her team along in her first season at the helm.
Harshman said Burnham is a go-to player on offense, but added that one of the Bruins’ best traits is having anyone they can turn to at any time. Altogether, the squad is making for a solid maiden season so far.
“These girls are a pleasure to work with,” Harshman said. “They work hard, and they do whatever I ask of them. I think we’re getting better every day.”