County and City All-Star volleyball teams squared off for the first time in nearly a decade Friday night, and perhaps no one was more happy to see the match back than the County players.
They came out ahead in the resumption of the annual duel, with County winning 25-15, 25-22, 23-25 at Hoover High behind the eight-kill nights turned in by Fresno State recruit Lauren Torres (El Diamante) and Ashley Cervantes (Redwood).
Cervantes also had eight digs and Bianca Pattani (El Diamante) six. Crystal Ikemiya (Reedley) added five kills and Carly Kosinski (Reedley) had four aces and eight assists.
Hoover's Deja Manning did all she could on her homecourt to aid the City cause. She posted 11 kills in a match for players from teams in Divisions I-III. Patriots teammates Alicin Lopez (seven kills) and Tynisha Thornton (eight assists) also turned in big numbers for the City.
Patriots coach Christina Nelson hopes it marked a big step to rebuilding the annual tradition. She helped get the match back on track in part because of some pestering by her little sister, who hounded her to start it up before she graduated last year. They couldn't pull it back together that quickly, but Nelson refused to let another year go by.
And with strong support from schools outside the big population centers of Fresno and Clovis, it just might make it.
"Our small schools even had more people than our large schools," Nelson said of the crowd on hand Friday. "I was impressed, a lot of us were, with our turnout."
Volleyball club organizations, the backbone of the sport because of their year-round commitment, bought in by sending out emails to help promote the game.
The central San Joaquin Valley is a bit of a volleyball hotbed, at least in terms of sending players on to college teams. One of the top NCAA teams in the nation this past season -- the University of San Diego -- was led by All-America second team hitter Chloe Ferrari (Buchanan) and honorable mention opposite Alaysia Brown (Edison).
Many of those who participated Friday are committed to continuing their careers next season at four-year or community colleges.
Among them are Alyssa Binion (Edison) Benedictine University in Mesa, Texas; Breeann Sturges (Exeter), Sul Ross State in Alpine, Texas; Alli O'Banion (Dos Palos), Southern Arkansas; and Pattani (Los Angeles Pierce).
"i was just really impressed with the amount of girls that are playing after high school," Nelson said.
In Friday's opener, Melissa Samaniego (Woodlake) had six kills and nine digs as South County defeated North County 25-22, 25-18, 18-25 in the All-Star matchup of Division III-V players.