UPDATE: Escalon got past Ponderosa, 3-2, on Tuesday night, Nov. 1 in the semifinals and moves on to the Section championship game. The No. 1 Lady Cougars will face No. 3 Christian Brothers in the D3 title game at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at Modesto Junior College.
With games on the home court, the Escalon varsity volleyball Lady Cougars claimed opening round and quarterfinal victories in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division 3 playoffs.
Both wins came in shutout fashion, as the girls first hosted the No. 16 Pioneer Patriots on Tuesday, Oct. 25 and then took on the Nevada Union Miners on Thursday, Oct. 27.
Against Pioneer, the No. 1 seed Lady Cougars swept to the 3-0 decision with scores of 25-19, 25-18, 25-11.
Senior co-captain Rylie Lattig was front and center with 30 assists while fellow senior and co-captain Emily Vickers notched 15 kills. It was a strong attacking night for the Escalon girls, as Gianna Bava had eight kills, Carsyn Hood had six, Sophia Martin added five. Serving, Emily Vickers had 10 aces and Bava had four while, at the net, Lisa Murga recorded six blocks and Hood had three.
Leading the team in digs was Lattig with 14, Faye Hernandez had 12 and Emily Vickers had seven.
Back on the court for the Thursday night showdown with No. 9 Nevada Union, which got past the No. 8 seed Beyer Patriots in the first round, Escalon again got the sweep but definitely had to work for it.
They got the first set 25-15 and then seemed to settle in a bit, cruising to a 25-9 decision in the second set. The visiting Miners refused to go quietly, however, and the teams engaged in a tense, back-and-forth battle in the third set. The Lady Cougars had to come from behind to nail down the 26-24 win.
“We knew this game was so important to us and I think not losing a set is a big deal, but we also said that they (Nevada Union) had all the pressure in this game because we were up two sets,” Vickers explained of how the host squad settled down with a late timeout to close out the game. “We just had to push to get the side out and finish the set, we only had four more points.”
Slamming home the kill to secure the victory against Nevada Union was sophomore Lisa Murga.
“I feel honored; it’s crazy that I’m a sophomore on varsity. This is such an energy-based team, we all pick each other up, we all get in the spirit and it just feels really good,” Murga said of contributing to the win.
She also said the team is focused and eager to keep moving froward.
“We do need to put more work in; our defense needs to get better and we just need to push through,” she said.
Rylie Lattig had 24 assists against Nevada Union. Emily Vickers had 12 kills on the night against the Miners, Gianna Bava and Carsyn Hood had six each, while Sophia Martin and Lisa Murga each recorded five. Vickers also added four aces and 10 digs; Hood had three aces, Bava had six blocks and Claire Barkus notched five. Faye Hernandez paced the team with 19 digs, Lattig had 13.
“The girls are playing with a lot of confidence and it shows,” said head coach Teresa Williamson. “They are not arrogant, they know this road is tough; however, they trust and believe in each other. They are such a fun team to watch play.”
The quarterfinal win put Escalon into the semifinals, which they were scheduled to host on Tuesday, Nov. 1 after The Times went to press. Their opponent was No. 4 Ponderosa, which defeated El Dorado, the No. 13 seed, in the opening round and No. 5 Oakdale in the quarterfinals. Ponderosa was first in their league during the season; Escalon was first in the Trans-Valley League and improved to 31-1 with the two wins this past week.
“We’re so excited,” co-captain Vickers said of advancing to the semifinal round. “We know the competition is just going to keep getting better so we’re just prepared to bring our ‘A’ game every single time.”