VOLLEYBALL: Wins over Sanger and El Diamante give Exeter the edge in seeding come playoff time
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
VISALIA – It may be a little early to begin talking about playoffs being that it is only two weeks into the season, but the Monarchs made a big statement toward their future D-II seeding this past week by sweeping fellow division competitors the Sanger Apaches 3-0 (25-22, 25-15, 25-15) on Tuesday, Aug 29, and the El Diamante Miners 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-19) on Thursday, Aug. 31.
“These wins are huge,” said Exeter head coach Samantha Hilvers. “Winning the head-to-head match ups almost guarantees us a high playoff seed.”
It is possible that all three schools, Exeter, Sanger, and El Diamante, could win their respective leagues. If that does happen, then the seeding committee in November will look at these matchups and give an extra point to the Monarchs for winning the head-to-head matchups, which should result in the Monarchs getting the higher seed.
Even with these wins, the Monarchs (8-3) must be ready for any changes along the way — even a last second change of venue. The Monarchs’ match up against the Miners (2-1) was supposed to be their season home opener. But because of a heat advisory and bad air quality warning placed on Tulare County, Exeter accepted the offer to switch sites to El Diamante to play in their air-conditioned gym.
“We’ll play anywhere, anytime,” said Coach Hilvers. “I just told the girls, ‘change of plans, be ready and here we go.’”
The Monarchs got off to a slow start in the first set against the Miners, failing to take a substantial lead until they took a 17-16 and won the last eight points to take the first set. That set a tone for the evening that the Monarchs had to fight for every point.
Coach Hilvers accredited the close sets to a history of starting slow against the West Yosemite League powerhouse. The change of venue and the fact that the Monarchs had to wait for their home opener at the Smith Gym did not help matters.
Yet, when the Monarchs needed a point to gain the lead or close out a set, their net players came through with kills, as well as blocks. Corinne Acosta, the Monarchs’ leader in kills this season with 27, spiked the ball to the ground eight times.
Tying with Acosta for most kills at eight was Lexi Kirkman, who had her best game this season. But where Kirkman excelled the most was with her five blocks.
“I have not seen this kid play that great at volleyball ever in her life,” said Coach Hilvers. “This is exciting because that means that she’s going to just keep on growing.”
The next day, the Monarchs traveled up to Clovis to take part in the Clovis Challenge Tournament. Going 5-3 over the weekend, the Monarchs tied for third place with host Clovis High School.
A 2-1 (25-23, 20-25, 16-18) loss to Bakersfield Christian in the semifinals ended the tournament for the Monarchs. Still, wins over Central Sequoia League rival Central Valley Christian Cavaliers and the Centennial Golden Hawks proved that the Monarchs can go toe-to-toe with some of the better programs in the area.
The Monarchs head to the Golden Valley Central California Classic this weekend. Then they will return home on Tuesday, Sep. 12, and play the Woodlake Tigers at 6 p.m.