LEMOORE — El Diamante High's Leslie Sorensen has been coaching high school volleyball in Visalia for 25 years.
So Sorensen knows exactly how special a group she has in The Bee's Central Section No. 2-ranked Miners, who rallied from a first-set loss to defeat West Yosemite League rival Lemoore 22-25, 25-11, 25-20, 25-16 on Tuesday in a rematch and similar result from last season's Division II championship.
"These girls show good character in school and are very talented," Sorensen said. "These kind of teams don't come around often. It's a good core group."
El Diamante (14-2, 4-0) returns eight players from a team that beat Lemoore 25-18, 25-17, 25-18 for the school's first section volleyball title last season.
And five of those returners are very experienced. Middle blocker Lauren Torres has been with Sorensen on the varsity for four years. Returning Bee All-Star outside hitter Rachael Schaefer as well as setter Kalina Escobar, libero Bianca Pattani and outside hitter Katelyn Anderson are all in their third varsity seasons.
It's that wealth of experience that helped the Miners shake off a sluggish first set that saw them fall behind 7-1 and never really completely recover.
"We knew we had to get louder — more communication on the floor and louder cheering — and then we'd be OK," said Schaefer, who finished with a match-leading 22 kills. "It was a mind-set that we were going to win."
El Diamante scored the first six points of the fourth set and never trailed en route to securing its sixth straight victory, a run that includes a four-set win over perennial section power Centennial in Bakersfield on Sept. 19. The Miners have only one loss to section opposition, a five-setter against Clovis on Sept. 4.
"We have a lot of confidence with all these returners," said Torres, who had seven kills and three blocks. "I know everyone so well. We've connected and jelled as a team. We want to end this off strong as a team that was unstoppable."
Lemoore, which lost seven starters from last season's D-II runner-up and co-WYL champion, had a 16-8 lead in the third set but couldn't hang on. The Tigers (15-6, 3-1) made six errors during a stretch that allowed El Diamante to tie the set at 17-17.
"We kind of gave them a shock and then we started making some errors we don't usually make," Lemoore coach Rachel Taylor said. "If we clean up the errors, I think it will be a really good match next time."
Jessica Taylor had 15 kills, 15 digs and five aces to lead Lemoore.
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