Ripon High School is the setting, Saturday is the day.
Escalon’s varsity volleyball girls will play for the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV blue banner, advancing to the final by defeating Calaveras 3-0 on Tuesday night, Nov. 5.
The host Lady Cougars, the No. 2 seed in Division IV, took down the No. 3 Calaveras team in straight sets, 25-17, 25-21, 27-25.
“I’m beyond proud of these girls,” said head coach Teresa Williamson following the Tuesday night victory.
Saturday’s championship game, Nov. 9, is set for a 3 p.m. start; Escalon will do battle against Union Mine for the title.
On the other side of the D-IV bracket, No. 4 Union Mine had to go the distance on Tuesday, outlasting No. 9 El Dorado in a 3-2 victory. El Dorado came in off of an upset win Oct. 31 over top seed Ripon.
Calaveras had defeated Orestimba and Woodland Christian before falling to Escalon; the Lady Cougars defeated Marysville and West Campus and now head to the Section final for the first time since 1998.
Earlier, games on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and again on Halloween, Thursday, Oct. 30 both went in the win column for Escalon’s varsity Lady Cougars.
The volleyball team opened up the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV playoffs at home on Oct. 29, hosting Marysville, the winner of a play-in game the day before.
In the Tuesday night contest at EHS, the host Lady Cougars won 25-14, 25-16 and looked like they were on the way to a sweep. But Marysville posted a 25-20 win in the third set, forcing Escalon to a fourth, where the home team prevailed 25-20 to with the match 3-1.
Hannah Boyd had 49 assists on the night along with two aces and five digs while Koren Rodriguez had 10 digs. Libero Tess Cosby notched four aces and 24 digs, with Mandy Murphy taking care of business with 18 kills, one block and 12 digs.
Melanie Smith had an all-around outstanding game with three aces, 15 kills and seven digs and the Lady Cougars also saw a strong performance from Emily Vickers with three aces, 12 kills and nine digs.
Escalon entered the playoffs as the number two seed and, after dispatching Marysville, was back on the court for a Thursday night match against West Campus. The visitors came in as the number seven seed. Escalon, with a small but vocal crowd in their corner, swept away the visitors, 3-0.
It was an intense match, however, especially in a back and forth second set that saw some crucial timeouts and pep talks from head coach Teresa Williamson to get the momentum back in the Cougars’ favor.
Final scores in the quarterfinal match were 25-16, 26-24, 25-15.
The atmosphere in the EHS gym was electric, both teams knowing each point was a big one as they looked to continue the playoff run. Escalon, however, was just too powerful for the West Campus team, utilizing smart play and timely, well-placed hits to come away with the victory.
Boyd had 36 assists with Cosby notching two aces and digging out 19 balls.
Murphy had nine aces, serving up several balls that the West Campus team couldn’t handle; along with seven digs, one block and 18 kills. Vickers had 10 kills, six digs, two blocks and four aces.
Smith rounded out a complete team effort with two aces, five kills and two blocks.
“The girls are playing amazing,” Williamson noted. “It is fulfilling to see these girls work so hard in practice and perform in a game.”