The best of the best fought for 12 hours Saturday in the 23rd annual Chris Craft Volleyball Tournament at Oak Ridge and Vista del Lago high schools.
The event, held in honor of Craft, a Trojan volleyball player who was killed shortly after graduation, draws top teams from all over Northern California.
Following pool play at both schools, Vista hosted teams battling for the silver championship rounds while the gold bracket teams competed at Oak Ridge.
The host Trojans had a tough day, losing in pool play to scrappy Union Mine and dropping their first round match to Napa, both in straight sets.
“Napa had a lot of strong hitters. They deflated us. We’d get a couple points and they would come right back at us,” Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter said. “I was so optimistic at the beginning of the year but we haven’t come together and put all the pieces together yet. The girls are hard on themselves and dwell on mistakes too much.”
Napa’s downfall came in its next match. Immediately after eliminating Oak Ridge, the team took on Union Mine, which had a first-round bye. The Diamondbacks fell behind in the early going but after Napa took a 14-9 lead, Union Mine started chipping away behind a block and a kill from Jacqueline Swarbrick, Leah Howton’s ace, and her two kills, and Mikayla Tucker, whose tips and blistering kills had Napa on its heels.
With the game tied 25-25, Howton’s roll shot started a back and forth fight for the win as the teams traded leads and ties that at one point, had D’back coach Mike Yates drop to the floor in frustration. But the girls pulled it out, 29-27, on a pair of Tucker kills and Napa’s final return that buried in the net.
Napa faded in the second set. The teams exchanged lead changes and ties until Union Mine went up 8-7 and slowly pulled away. After Napa tied it at 21-21, the next serve hit the net and the D’backs fought to match point behind Tucker, whose kill off the block put the match away with a 25-22 win.
“Ball control — you have to know where to hit. It doesn’t matter how big you are or how hard you hit. If you hit a hard ball out of bounds, it’s still a point for the other team,” Yates said of the D’backs’ success against bigger, taller teams. “That and never giving up,” he added.
That match was played in the Trojans’ small gym. As soon as it was over the D’backs took off for the big gym for the semifinal match with El Camino. The D’backs ran out of gas against El Camino and lost in straight sets, 25-20, 25-19, a repeat of last year’s outcome.
“Wednesday we beat Rocklin, which was ranked No. 1 in the area, in three games. The next night we played Golden Sierra, a good, solid team, and lost the first game. We got lazy and lost focus,” Yates said.
“The same thing happened today. We did have to sit for five hours after winning our pool — that’s just what happened to us last year — but we have to learn to play through those things. We beat a very good team in Napa, then came out and didn’t play well against El Camino. We lost focus and you can’t do that against a good team like the Eagles.”