Volleyball: Monarchs advance to next round

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Exeter swept the Central Grizzlies in the first round of the Division I playoffs
By Jermaine Johnson II  @Jerm_10
FRESNO – The Monarchs are off to a hot start in their first playoffs in Division I. Last Thursday, they traveled up to Fresno and defeated the Central Grizzlies 3-0 on their home court. 
Big runs fueled Exeter during their first two sets. Both teams went back and forth during the first set, before the Monarchs had some strong serves that began setting them apart. That momentum carried over to the second as they began with a run that gave them a big lead. Exeter’s tough defense were all over the place keeping the ball off the ground and did not allow the Grizzlies to get back into it. They won both sets 25-10. 
The third set was a lot more competitive as Central felt that their season was slowly coming to an end. According to Exeter head coach Samantha Hilvers, her team’s serving was not as strong in the third set which is what kept the score so close. They had to rely on some timely kills by senior Mattie Fry who helped lead the team to a 25-21 victory. Fry ended the night with seven kills, seven digs, and two aces. Senior Meghan Tilschner also played a pivotal role offensively, as she led the team with nine kills and four aces. Jaycie Wilkinson anchored the defense with a team high 13 digs.  
“They had some nerves at first,” Hilvers said about her team during the first playoff game of the season. After several seasons of dominating in Division II, including three straight Valley Championship appearances and back to back victories, the Monarchs are playing their first season in Division I. 
“I love playoff season because instead of getting 20 minutes to warm up [like during the regular season], we get a full 55 minutes. Those extra 30 minutes are huge,” Hilvers said. 
The win at Central marked the sixth win in a row for the Monarchs, which have all been sweeps. The emergence of freshman Hannah Baker has been pivotal in the team’s recent success. 
 “Hannah had a lights out night,” Hilvers said. “That’s the first time all season she’s had zero hitting errors in a match.”
Baker ended with seven kills and seven digs. Hilvers attributes her growth to the team’s senior leadership. 
“Mattie has taken Hannah under her wing,” she said. “When I moved [Mattie] to the outside, she began talking to Hannah a lot more. You started to see Hannah play a lot more relaxed and confident.”
Confidence has been something the entire team has had more of since the beginning of the season. In their first game of the year, they had to travel down to Bakersfield to play Liberty and they were swept. Their next playoff game was a rematch of that game, and Hilvers was excited to see her team’s growth since August. The game was played after press time, and will be covered in next week’s issue.