As the El Molino Lions look back on the 2019 volleyball campaign, they may have the first week of September circled on their calendar as a defining moment.

After starting the season with tough losses to Kelseyville (5 sets) and Maria Carrillo (3 sets) last month, El Molino has reeled off eight straight wins, including five victories in the Fort Bragg Tournament on Sept. 7.

The Lions didn’t lose a set in the tourney, posting wins over Fort Bragg, Upper Lake, Arcata, Clear Lake and Roseland University Prep to hoist the first-place trophy.

“It’s been a great week for El Molino volleyball,” coach Becky Sani reported. “We played everyone in each match (in the Fort Bragg tourney), giving all players a team ownership in the end result. We used this weekend as a team bonding time, and it showed on the court.”

It’s worth noting that all but one of the wins in the Fort Bragg tournament came against North Coast Section Division 4 opponents, which will bode well for playoff seeding in November. 

The Lions feature a line-up that is among the best in Division 4, led by veteran outside hitters junior Kassidy Sani and senior Sasha Senal. Junior setter Grace McCormick runs the offense and provides great leadership.

“Grace has improved greatly since last year,” coach Sani noted. “She’s confident, experienced and a leader on the court. Her sets are quick and accurate, which helps catch our opponents off guard.”

In addition, junior Yasmin Sierra has moved to libero this season, to give the team great defense at the back line. Other emerging stars for the team are juniors Brooklyn Hayes and Bella Raia and sophomore middle blockers Ellie Roan, Alex Foszcz, along with defensive specialist Sienna Montiel.

The Lions will resume pre-league action on Sept. 12 at Tamalpais and compete in the Nor Cal Tournament at Novato High School on Sept. 14.  El Mo will host archrival Analy in the annual “Apple Match” on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 6:30 p.m.

“I see this match as one to remember,” Sani predicted. “The Lions are hungry to keep the Tigers to as few points as possible.”

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