Tigers bounced by Petaluma in NCS Div. 3 match
It was a tumultuous ending to the fall volleyball campaign, as El Molino and Analy varsity teams shook off widespread fire evacuations to finish the season with appearances in the North Coast Section playoffs.
Lions capture league title
El Molino (25-8) ended a 16-year title drought by capturing the North Bay League Redwood Division, closing out the regular season with wins over Elsie Allen and Piner before the Kincade fire forced evacuations last week.
The wins gave the Lions a 9-1 NBL record and their first league title since 2003.
“It feels great,” El Mo coach Becky Sani said after securing the league pennant. “It’s a great accomplishment that we’ve been working toward for a long time.”
The Nov. 5 seeded Lions shook off all obstacles, including no practices due to evacuations, but the team showed its resiliency at No. 12 Pinole Valley on Oct. 31. Although the match was moved to Pinole due to ongoing evacuations, El Mo turned in a great performance to win in three sets: 25-18, 25-17, 25-17.
“We out-powered them in all aspects of the game,” Sani reported. “For us playoffs are a big deal that we take very seriously. We were able to shake off the nerves quickly, and I was able to get everyone playing time, which isn't always the case in the postseason.”
Senior outside hitter Kassidy Sani led the attack with 23 kills and seven aces.
The win advanced the Lions to the NCS quarterfinals at No. 4 Head Royce in Oakland on Nov. 2, but the magic ran out in a loss in three: 21-25, 25-27, 15-25.
“Our Achilles heel was our serve receive; they were very strategic servers,” Becky Sani said of her opponent. “They would serve deep. and when we'd adjust, they’d serve short. Most of their points came from our bad serve receive passing.”
Stat leaders included Kassidy Sani (13 kills, 2 aces, 8 digs), Sasha Senal (10 kills, 2 aces, 13 digs), Yasmin Sierra (13 digs), Maggie McKelvey-Whisler (5 blocks), Grace McCormick (25 assists, 7 digs, 2 blocks) and Alex Foszcz (6 blocks, 3 kills, 2 aces).
When the dust cleared, the Lions put the season-ending loss in perspective.
“As a coach you build your team and hope that it peaks when it counts in playoffs, and that's what the Lady Lions did,” Sani reflected. “We played amazing volleyball that night, by far the best match we've played all year. I’m very proud of our girls.”
Tigers land playoff berth
Meanwhile the Analy Tigers were rewarded for a competitive league season with the No. 12 seed in the NCS Division 3 tourney.
Analy wrapped up a challenging, 2-8 NBL Oak Division campaign with a split in a pair of matches, falling in five sets to Montgomery before finishing up with a three-set victory over Santa Rosa.
The Tigers could be excused for feeling spent after their final stretch in league, playing their fifth five-set match of the NBL season (eighth overall) in an Oct. 22 battle with visiting Montgomery. The Tigers fell just short of pulling out the win, falling to the Vikings 25-23, 14-25, 25-20, 20-25, 12-15.
Statistical leaders for Analy were Bella Puget (17 kills, 4 blocks), Gillian Campbell (18 digs 14 assists) and Juliette Price (10 kills, 14 digs).
On Oct. 24, the Tigers paid tribute to graduating seniors Puget, Campbell and Bree Scott before taking the court against Santa Rosa, easily dispatching the Panthers in three games: 25-17, 25-17, 25-10.
Pacing the attack were Puget (15 kills, 4 blocks), Scott (11 digs, 2 aces), Campbell (14 assists, 9 digs, 2 aces), Hannah Gest (18 assists) and Gea Foggetti (8 kills).
“The NBL Oak Division is always going to be a tough league and it was a battle for us this year,” Analy coach Holly Folendorf reflected. “We had so many five set matches, but the girls kept working hard and really pulled together for our last league match.”
Although evacuations turned preparation for the NCS tournament on its ear, the Tigers traveled to face No. 5 Petaluma on Oct. 31. The Tigers struggled to contain the Trojans’ powerful attack, falling in straight sets: 19-25, 13-25, 23-25.
Statistical leaders were Puget (13 kills), Foggetti (7 kills) and Scott (16 digs).
Analy finished the season with an overall record of 8-15.