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Marathon Goes To Visitors In Varsity Volleyball Finale
Two hours of ups and downs, wins and losses, a valiant comeback and ultimately, defeat.

Escalon's varsity volleyball girls were stopped one win short of the Section finals, falling 3-2 to visiting Bear River in action Tuesday night, Nov. 15.

It marked the end of the season for the Lady Cougars, who went undefeated in Trans-Valley League play and hoped to battle for the blue banner. Bear River, with powerful outside hitters, was able to eke out a fifth game win, 12-15, to advance to the finals at UC Davis on Thursday night, Nov. 17. There, they lost to a talented Union Mine squad.

For Escalon head coach Teresa Williamson, the match on Tuesday night had it all.

"It was a heart stopper and just some excellent volleyball," Williamson said. "I couldn't be more proud of the girls."

Bear River stunned Escalon with a quick victory in game one, the teams keeping up a fast pace as the Bruins took a 21-25 win. They went up 2-0 with a 20-25 win in game two, putting the Lady Cougars on the brink of elimination.

"It showed a lot of leadership from the four captains and a lot of heart as a team," Williamson said of her girls battling back to ultimately force a game five. "It would have been easy to lose in three."

An emphatic pep talk from JV coach Kayla Kootstra in between games two and three helped turn the tide, as she urged the team to dig deep and find a way to win, not wanting the team's two seniors - Shaylynn Beam and Megan Faria - go down to defeat in 3-0 fashion. Beam, Faria, junior Nicole Bianchi and sophomore Cassidy Caton served as team captains this season.

"The crowd really got behind them, too," Williamson pointed out of Escalon supporters. "It gave them reasons to fight back."

Faria said the players had to find a way to keep battling.

"We just said it could be our last game ever, we told them to just play for ourselves," Faria explained. "I just feel like everyone believed in each other and we got to that fifth game."

Escalon came away with a 25-20 win in game three and maintained steady play in game four to win that one, 25-19. That forced the fifth and deciding game, with the visiting Bruins holding on for a 12-15 decision.

"We struggled and kind of put ourselves in a hole," Beam agreed. "But they were definitely a good team."

Beam ended the two-hour marathon with 37 assists, Bianchi had 32 digs. Caton had 17 kills, Faria had 14 kills and two blocks, with seven kills and three blocks from Sam Shipley and three blocks from Adalia Cajias.

The team earned the TVL title with a 12-0 run and went 23-7 for the season. Only Beam and Faria graduate, but with their versatility, Beam as a setter, Faria as an outside hitter and back row, with both able to serve effectively, Williamson said it will be like having to replace four positions on the floor. Still, there are some girls making the move up from the JV level that should work well into the system.

Williamson said she also had plenty of support throughout the season, especially in the playoff run, from her daughter, former EHS standout Stephanie Williamson, in addition to JV coach Kootstra and freshman coach Niki (Hoover) Williamson, her daughter-in-law.

"Steph has been with me all season, she did a tremendous job and we wouldn't have made it this far without all three of them," she said of her coaches. "They've just been amazing."

And while the Lady Cougars didn't quite make it to UC Davis and there were some tears on the court following the semifinal loss, Williamson said they need to be proud of what they achieved.

"Their outsides were pretty strong," Williamson added of Bear River. "Our defense was phenomenal and both teams played solid, we just made more errors than they did."