Volleyball: Blazers outhit Apaches 3-1
Cindy Contreras leads Golden West to quarterfinal matchup with the Rangers
By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN
VISALIA – There was plenty of excitement and players rising to the occasion during the No. 6 seeded Blazers opening round D-II match up last Thursday night. After dropping the first set Golden West won the next three to come out with a 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-22) win over the No. 9 seeded Sanger Apaches.
“I thought it was a pretty good game,” said Golden West head coach Laura Lopez. “We had a couple slow moments but we picked it back up when we needed to.”
The Blazers (23-9, 9-3) big-hitting senior duo of Kendall Johnson and Peyton Epp struggled in the first set. Untrue to their regular season form, they committed twice as many errors (6) as kills (3).
That opened up the net for the Apaches (9-27, 5-5) own duo of big hitters. Sanger co-captains Stephanie Herring and Mackenzie Jennings combined for 10 kills. Jennings, the Apaches middle hitter, hit the ball around Epp for four kills. But when Herring was set on the outside, Blazer players were caught looking instead of reacting, giving Sanger the advantage and Herring six kills.
Golden West did have some success early on in the set with Sanger slow to cover taps over the net. But even that was short lived as the Blazers watched the first set slip away.
Coach Lopez said that there were no adjustments made from the first to the second set. Instead the Blazers started playing their game and forced the tempo.
After a brief Apache lead early in the second set the Blazers were able to take their first lead of the night. But it was not Johnson or Epp who came up with the back-to-back kills, but rather Cindy Contreras. Her first year on varsity, this junior was third on the team in kills with 147 during the regular season.
“[Contreras] is a smart hitter and has stepped up in a big way,” said Lopez.
Those two kills by Contreras gave the Blazers a 10-9 lead. Sanger tied it up at 10-10 but after that the second set belonged to Golden West, winning 25-21.
The Blazers dominated the majority of the rest of the game. By the third set Johnson and Epp had found their form finishing with 18 and (stats) kills, respectively. Yet Contreras came up with the biggest kill of the night in the fourth.
Herring went on the war path in the fourth set and tried to single handedly get her team back into the game by serving seven points, including two aces. That closed the lead to 19-17. It remained close until the game point came to Contreras.
All Contreras was thinking about when the ball was set to her was, “I better hit it down.”
The outside hitter knifed through the block and it struck the ground, ending the game.
Golden West’s journey toward the College of the Sequoias and the Valley Championships continued last Tuesday night against the No. 3 Redwood Rangers, the final of which happened after press time. Champions of the West Yosemite League for the second straight season, the Rangers’ only two league losses came against the Blazers.
“[Redwood] is going to have it out for us, but I think this is going to be good,” said Lopez.