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Lady Cougars Head To Volleyball Playoffs
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Winning on the road Tuesday at Riverbank, Escalon's varsity volleyball team gave themselves a chance to tie for the Trans-Valley League title in Ripon on Wednesday. They fell short of that goal.

The girls lost to the host Ripon team, 3-1, settling for second place in the TVL behind the undefeated Indians. Escalon went 12-2, its only losses in league play to Ripon.

"I'm not big on moral victories but in the loss to Ripon, the moral victory was that we played as hard as we could," said coach Rusty Fachner.

They set up the showdown by topping Riverbank on Tuesday, 25-6, 25-22, 25-16.

"In the first game, we were terrific," said Fachner. "At one point, we were up 23-2, we completely dominated that first game."

Steph Williamson served up several aces to get the team rolling and the Lady Cougars played solid defense to roar through the first game.

"The second game was completely flip flopped," noted Fachner. "We let down a lot and you can't have those roller coaster kind of swings."

In the third game, the visiting Lady Cougars regrouped and were in control, finishing off the Lady Bruins in three.

"We got some real quality efforts out of people and our passing was excellent," Fachner said. "Emily Alves stepped in and did a real good job, Jenna Martin and Michelle Williams were good in passing."

Chelsea Fachner had 11 kills, Brittany Rigg added five.

"Emily McCants, on the outside, did a real good job," added Fachner. "The match wasn't great or glorious, the first game was terrific, then we leveled off and just got out of there."

At Ripon, with a share of the title on the line - an Escalon win would have left the teams tied at 13-1 in league - the Lady Cougars battled the pressure.

"We tightened up," Fachner admitted. "Through the first two games, we made a lot of mental errors, there was a lot of miscommunication, we didn't execute."

Fachner said the squad had worked on several areas of their game in practice Monday hoping to be well prepared for the showdown with Ripon.

"You can work on things in practice but if you don't execute, you're not going to win the match," the coach said. "We didn't execute at Ripon until the third game."

Ripon prevailed in the contest, 25-18, 25-15, 27-29, 25-23.

"Ripon did a nice job focusing on Chelsea," Fachner said of the defense against the Lady Cougars' top hitter. "We were down 24-20 in the third game and then we made a terrific run, it would have been easy to give up at that point but the girls didn't, we came back and won that one, 29-27."

Then the Lady Cougars jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the fourth game and Fachner said he believed the match had reached a turning point.

"I felt we were on our way, we had the momentum," he said. "Then we just couldn't pass the ball."

His setters also became a little tentative after some calls from the officials went against them, all helping to add up to the Ripon win.

"Emily McCants and Brittany Rigg had some big kills for us and Chelsea had 17 digs," Fachner pointed out. "Danielle Wells was just a tower of strength for Ripon."

The loss left the varsity girls with a 12-2 mark in league and 24-4 overall. They take second in the TVL and are seeded third in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs. They were slated to host Summerville on Tuesday, Nov. 9 after The Times went to press and, if victorious in the first round, will host the winner of the Hilmar-Mariposa game on Thursday, Nov. 11 at 7 p.m.

"We just have to go out and play," Fachner said of approaching the playoffs. "I'd like to have that TVL title, no question about it, but we are still seeded third and we're on the good side of the bracket."

Fachner said top seeded Ripon has some tougher teams stacked on their side of the bracket, while the Cougars defeated all three teams they could face, Summerville, Mariposa and Hilmar, in earlier action.

"We should have some sort of psychological advantage," he said.

As far as preparing for the postseason, Fachner said it's pretty simple.

"You play like your hair's on fire," he said of pumping up the squad. "It's one (loss) and you're done, we have to be ready to go."

Semifinals and finals in Division IV are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 13 at UC Davis, with the semifinal matches at noon and the finals at 7 p.m.