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Lady Wolverines get hot for postseason run

Sierra finished fourth at state tournament
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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After a fourth-place finish in the Big 8 Conference, the Sierra College women’s volleyball team hits its stride once the postseason began.

The Lady Wolverines rode their playoff success to a second fourth-place result, this time in the entire state. The high point of the whole run may well have been Sierra’s opening round win at the state finals over Orange Coast College.

After losing to Sierra in that first game of the eight-team tournament last weekend, the Pirates ran off six straight wins to earn the state championship. One of those wins came in a rematch with the Wolverines, in which Sierra’s postseason ended.

“Our win against Orange Coast Friday night in four (games) was huge,” said Sierra coach Vera Nelson. “They ended up winning the state championship. I am extremely proud of this group of athletes. They worked hard all season and were able to see their hard work pay off with a No. 1 in NorCal and No. 4 in state finish.”

That Northern California regional tournament was the beginning of Sierra’s postseason success. The Wolverines entered as the seventh-ranked team in the region and knocked off No. 10 Porterville in five sets in their opener at home.

“The Porterville game we played up and down, not consistent,” Nelson said, “but came out huge in the fifth playing flawlessly. Impact players were Alexis Moser and Larae Saylor leading the team as captains and defensive marvels with 23 and 29 digs each.”

Next up was No. 2 Foothill College, which saw its season ended after a four-game Sierra upset. After the two-round single-elimination regionals were in the books, four Big 8 teams were left standing, and they carried their original seeding position into the state finals.

Corinna Farris ran the offense with 40 assists, spreading the wealth to Danielle Griffin (12 kills), Del Oro graduate Rachel Vetterlein (17 kills), Placer’s Shelby Madigan (12 kills) and Lauren Nelson of Granite Bay (nine kills).

“Foothill was a huge team effort,” Nelson said. “This team is very balanced and a reason we had such a great postseason.”

That left Sierra as the NorCal No. 4, while Sacramento City was No. 1, Delta No. 2 and Santa Rosa No. 3. The Wolverines outlasted all of these teams largely on the strength of that huge win over Orange Coast.

When Sierra knocked off Santa Rosa in an elimination game, it earned the best Northern California finish, as three Southern California teams held down the top positions in the final standings.

In the first match at the state finals, it was Moser on the back line with 28 digs and a trio of players delivering double-figure kills (Vetterlein, Madigan and Danielle Griffin) that did in Orange Coast, the top seen from the south.

A loss to Irvine Valley sent the Wolverines to the elimination bracket, where they took care of Santa Rosa, but not without needing five games. A 15-13 win in the deciding set was Sierra’s 10th five-game marathon match of the season. The win also exacted a measure of revenge against a Santa Rosa team that had knocked off the Wolverines twice during the season.

When Orange Coast came around again, it had too much momentum and sent Sierra home with its fourth-place state finish.

“It as a very successful season with a very young team,” Nelson said. One starter from last year’s team and a transfer sophomore from ARC were our only experienced players. We had many injuries throughout the season, nine to be exact. Only our defensive specialist, libero and setter were not sidelined at one time or another throughout the season.”

Nelson is certain that the revolving door of players actually helped her team earn success at the state level.

“This team is the true definition of team,” Nelson said. “They supported each other on and off court. There was no one-woman show. It was all about the whole package. Throughout the season different players have had to change positions and fill big shoes due to injuries. These experiences gave them the advantage to step up when the biggest challenges came during postseason and state championships.”

FYI:

Sierra College at the Northern California Regional

Sierra over Porterville 27-25 23-25 25-22 21-25 15-6

Sierra over Foothill 18-25 25-18 25-18 25-23

 

Sierra at the State Tournament

Sierra over Orange Coast 25-22, 18-25, 25-20, 26-24

Sierra lost to Irvine Valley 15-25, 19-25, 14-25

Sierra over Santa Rosa 25-18, 25-18, 17-25, 10-25, 15-13

Sierra lost to Orange Coast 22-25, 12-25, 14-25)