SACRAMENTO — Reaching the postseason semifinals in any sport is always a solid accomplishment. Stopping there when you’re accustomed to advancing further isn’t. Amidst disappointment, hurt and some tears Tuesday, the Oak Ridge High volleyball team’s season ended to host St. Francis with a 14-25, 24-26, 16-25 loss.
The Trojans were denied their bid to win the program’s fifth Sac-Joaquin Section title and repeat as Division I champions while the Troubadours will now compete Thursday at the U.C. Davis Recreation Hall for their ninth banner, first in D-1, when they take on St. Mary’s in an all-private school finale. Tuesday’s winner was also guaranteed an appearance in the CIF NorCal playoffs, where Oak Ridge took third last season.
Behind 6-foot-3 middle blocker Zoe Nightingale, 6-0 outside hitter Paige Folger, 5-11 outside Gabriella Palmeri and 5-10 outside Stephanie Solich, St. Francis brought too much firepower to Tuesday’s match. Still, despite the fact the Troubadours owned two prior wins over Troy, Oak Ridge coach Becky Potter refused to concede St. Francis was the better team.
“They were a physically better team but I don’t think for a second that this team (Trojans) is any different or less talented than any other Oak Ridge team,” Potter said. “My theme has always been to get the girls to understand that I believe they need to believe in themselves and realize their potential. I know this sounds cliché but everything happens for a reason and it just wasn’t our time.”
It was time to win or go home and the Trojans couldn’t prolong the season. They battled St. Francis even in the opening game before the Troubadours took off from a 12-12 tie with a set-closing 13-2 run.
Oak Ridge fought valiantly behind the play of Katie Vaughn, Nikki Haggard, Haley Simmons, Alexa Becker, Arden Zuber, Mysha Davies, Maddie Chambliss and Tara McDermott to take the next game and alter the outcome. Trailing 23-20, McDermott quick-set Simmons for a cross court kill and after Nightingale mishandled a Davies serve, St. Francis let the next serve land for a score-tying ace. Oak Ridge took the lead as a Troubadour spike caught the net and was in position to win as a St. Francis pass strayed to the net. But the Trojans’ return lacked steam and the hosts recovered to win the point as well as the next two.
“We’re not as big or strong and that was a disadvantage. We tried to give it all we had but it didn’t work out,” Chambliss said. “We were nervous and shaky in the first game but started to believe (we could win) in the second, and losing just crushed us,”
While Chambliss has two years left in the program, Tuesday marked Vaughn’s final match with her Oak Ridge teammates and an end to a stellar prep career. The four-year varsity starter did her best to counter St. Francis’ depth and her two stuffs on Nightingale in the third set gave hope for a possible comeback that evenutally faded.
“I went in truly thinking we’d win and we fought hard. It was a great season and it feels like we went pretty far but it’s still disappointing it came to an end,” said Vaughn, who will play at Brigham Young University next fall.
The Trojans finish with an overall record of 20-17.