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Miners make quick work of first-round foe

Sarah McAtee, Kylie Miraldi and Christian Woodruff combined for 31 kills in three games, as No. 1 seed Nevada Union opened its drive for five-straight section championships with a 25-14, 25-16, 25-19 win over No. 16 Modesto.

The home win was Nevada Union’s 17th straight in section-tournament play.

The scary thing for future opponents, however, might be that the NU coaching staff says the Miners were off their mark in Tuesday’s Division I section tournament opener.



“Actually, I was a little bit disappointed,” said NU co-head coach Bob Rogers. “We were way better Saturday (at the Super 8 Tournament at St. Francis in Sacramento).

“I think part of it is they size up the opponent and start throttling back. And when you do that you’ll make some uncharacteristic errors.”




Nevada Union (28-6) took command in game one on the right arms of McAtee and Miraldi. McAtee hammered home five kills in the opening game, while Miraldi drove home seven more. On the night, McAtee, the Sierra Foothill League co-MVP, turned 11 of her 19 swings into kills for the Miners.

“Sarah is really coming into form at the right time,” Rogers said of the junior, who has returned to the lineup after being sidelined earlier this season by an ankle injury. “I thought she looked really good tonight and I thought Kylie did too.”

Miraldi, also a junior, converted on 12 of 20 kill attempts in the win. Miraldi said she and her teammates enjoy the challenge of following in the footsteps of the previous four section-championship teams at Nevada Union.

“I think more than it being pressure, it’s more that we have some shoes we need to fill,” Miraldi said. “I think we feel the pressure, but I think we’re able to handle it.

“We definitely have the mindset we need.”

As strong as NU’s statistics looked at the end of the match, Nevada Union co-head coach Larry Peterson agreed with Rogers that the best is yet to come from the Miners.

After taking a game-two win, NU returned to the court for game three, but Peterson said the play wasn’t as sharp as it will need to be to win another section crown. Leading 5-3, the Miners made five errors that led to a 9-8 lead for Modesto.

“We also didn’t have any stuff blocks tonight at all,” said Peterson. “We really need to get better there. Another thing is even though we were digging their shots, we did a real poor job of passing the free ball.”

In addition to their 31 kills, McAtee, Miraldi and Woodruff also combined for 27 digs. Woodruff led the way with 14 digs, while McAtee had seven and Miraldi six.

Caroline Reeves finished with 33 assists, five aces and five digs. Jen Sager had three assists on the night.

The Miners are back in action Thursday, hosting second-round play against the winner of Tuesday’s match between No. 9 Tokay and No. 8 Napa. First serve is set for 7 p.m.

ooo

To contact Sports Editor Brian Hamilton, e-mail brianh@theunion.com or call 477-4240.


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