Oak Ridge High’s varsity volleyball squad saddled up and got down to business at Thursday night’s CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division 1 quarterfinals, beating the Monterey Trail Mustangs 3-1.
After the hard-fought match, Trojan coach Becky Potter let out a sigh of relief. “I knew it was going to be tough,” she said. “They’ve gotten better … Scott Ellison is a fantastic coach and he breathes so much life into those girls.”
The first game started with some aggressive play from the Mustangs. A swift kill put them on the board first but errors proved costly for the visiting team. Oak Ridge’s first five points came courtesy of the other side of the net.
As the game progressed, fans saw two evenly-matched teams. The score was tied to 9-9 when Troy turned up the heat.
Oak Ridge’s momentum started with a kill from senior co-captain Alexa Becker before Arden Zuber’s soft kill found the floor on the opponent’s side of the court. An unreturnable serve from co-captain Haley Simmons and a Mustang error pushed the hosts in front 13-9 and, after a kill pulled the Mustangs into double digits, Oak Ridge went on another run to add seven more points.
Monterey Trail slowed the Trojans’ momentum with some key blocks and kills but it didn’t change the outcom . On a strong Simmons kill, Oak Ridge won 25-17.
In the second game, the Trojans pulled away early thanks to great play from Zuber, Becker and junior Amelia Crye, who also dished out some tough serves that ricocheted off Mustangs trying to keep the ball in play.
Short runs put the Lady Trojans on top 17-14 and Oak Ridge’s final eight points came from both sides of the net; three Mustang errors while Crye and junior Tara McDermott racked up three more points. Junior Mysha Davies sealed the deal with a winning kill of a 25-16 victory.
Not going down without a fight, Monterey Trail rallied in the third set and kept in step with the Trojans until momentum swung its way. Oak Ridge errors and well-executed plays by the Mustang side gave the visitors the lead.
Tough shots had Troy’s players diving to the floor and Monterey Trail’s blocking improved, effectively shutting down Oak Ridge’s power hitters. The Trojans did benefit from some Mustang errors and, in the final minutes the girls did find their groove, but it was too little, too late in an 18-25 setback.
Potter attributed the loss to timid play, explaining that when the girls start to make mistakes they tone down their aggressiveness and end up making bad plays. “We’ll fix that,” she confidently said after the match.
A “Let’s Go Oak Ridge” chant kicked off the fourth game and the girls didn’t disappoint on their home turf. They took an early 8-2 lead with more confident play coming from Simmons, Zuber and Becker.
The tide shifted when a Simmons serve went out-of-bounds and the Mustangs blocked one of her signature kills. Monterey Trail picked up its fifth point on a hard serve, lost the ball on the next play when a kill flew long, and then got it back with a successful block. Oak Ridge responded with a kill from junior Rachel McVicar and took advantage of another Mustang miscue to enjoy a five-point cushion at 11-6.
It wouldn’t last. The Mustangs went on a short 5-3 run that ended with a rally that had the ball flying into Simmons lap before Becker made a spectacular play, hitting it over to win the point.
Energized by the crowd, both teams kicked it into high gear, trading points to bring the score to 15-12 in Oak Ridge’s favor before the Mustangs galloped ahead, 18-19, capitalizing on their players’ strengths and Troy’s errors.
Watching their early lead disappear, the Trojans battled back with a five-point run. Monterey Trail responded with a sharp kill and tied it up 23-23 after two of Troy’s plays went out-of-bounds.
The Lady Trojans got the ball back on a bad Mustang serve and a Monterey Trail error handed Oak Ridge the 25-23 win to bring fans to their feet.