VISALIA – Ashley Vander Tuig brought the thunder, hustle, tenacity and smarts that helped Central Valley Christian High score perhaps the biggest landmark win in the history of the small-schools power that has made three CIF State Championship appearances.
And after Vander Tuig delivered a career-best 22 kills – with a sky-high .538 attack percentage, 14 digs and a perfect 14-of-14 effort from the service line – in the No. 4 Cavaliers' 20-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24 upset Tuesday of Central Section top-ranked Clovis West, the praise for the 6-foot-2 senior began to flow.
"She took over the match at points. She got things done," said second-year Cavaliers coach Meghan Warkentin, a former Bee Player of the Year. "This is huge for us. It gives us the drive to work even harder than before. I hope it fuels an even greater work ethic in practice."
Even more impressed was the coach on the other bench, Clovis West's Rhonda DeRuiter, who helped develop The Bee's past two Players of the Year in Shannon Leary and Melody Mandelbaum.
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"I think Ashley Vander Tuig should be the player of the year," DeRuiter said. "She is hands down the best player in the Valley. Maybe it was just the night or this match, but I have not seen a better player ... in defense, blocking, serving, hitting, everything."
DeRuiter, who has turned Clovis West into a section power since leaving CVC in 2004 after winning six Division V titles in six seasons, put her former school on the schedule three years ago as a way to give the Cavaliers exposure against D-I competition. It's what she always wanted during her time at the Visalia school.
After sweeping to wins in each of the past two seasons, the Golden Eagles had to rally to win the first set 25-20 after trailing 20-18 at one point.
The Cavaliers, who hadn't scored more than 16 points in any set against Clovis West in the previous two meetings, were fueled by the effort.
"Toward the middle of the first [set], we were fighting so hard we knew we could do it," Vander Tuig said. "We have been working so hard for this."
CVC (13-3) trailed early in the second set before Vander Tuig and Danielle Nederend started finding their range, combining for 14 kills, including Nederend's winner.
"We thought, 'We're the underdogs, but let's see what we can do,' " said Nederend, who finished with 12 kills and nine digs. "We just don't get competition like this, so this was a huge day."
There were 21 lead changes in the final two sets, with Clovis West (12-4) never leading after an 8-7 edge in the third and a 20-19 advantage in the fourth.
"That was not our best effort," DeRuiter said. "CVC wasn't intimidated by us at all. They were the more aggressive team. That's how you win the match."