The nation’s newly minted 12th-ranked girls volleyball team survived a home-court scare from the defending Central Section Division I champions Tuesday night.
Clovis High, which debuted at No. 12 in this week’s Maxpreps Xcellent 25 national rankings, extended an undefeated season by overcoming Clovis East 25-23, 24-26, 27-25, 25-27, 16-14 in a Tri-River Athletic Conference opener.
The Cougars faced the end of a 25-match winning streak down 14-13 in the fifth game after a block by the Timberwovles’ Emily Mathias. But Clovis, top ranked in the Central Section by The Bee, proceeded to run off three straight points on a Clovis East return error, Taylen Ballard’s 27th kill of the match and a combo block by Keri Leake and Erin Mossette off an attack by Madison Mossette.
“It was really stressful,” said Leake, who finished with 15 kills. “We weren’t really playing our best, but we held on by a thread and came out with a win.”
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It was really stressful. We weren’t really playing our best, but we held on by a thread and came out with a win.
Clovis’ Keri Leake, who had 15 kills in the top-ranked Cougars’ 25-23, 24-26, 27-25, 25-27, 16-14 victory over No. 8 Clovis East.
Clovis had a chance to close out eighth-ranked Clovis East (16-5) in the fourth game, but let a 24-22 lead slip away. Alessandra Quisado and Brooklyn Lopez delivered aces, Mathias hammered a kill and Taylor Diley’s block provided the winning point for the Timberwolves.
“We knew we had a tough one on our hands tonight,” Clovis coach Rich Lake said. “Clovis East has been playing tough this year, and we didn’t expect anything less.”
The Cougars had to overcome late deficits in each of the three games they won, rallying from 23-21 in the first and 24-21 in the third. Clovis also received 12 kills and 27 digs from Erin Mossette, nine kills from Makena Ogas and 54 assists from Jasmine Heu.
“We should have played more of our game. We didn’t play up to our level we should have been,” said Clovis’ Erin Mossette, cousin of Clovis East’s Madison Mossette. “We were a little shaky. But we need to focus on fixing that and getting into our groove and not having to worry about the other team and what they are doing, but our team and what we’re doing on our side.”
It was a reversal of last season, when Clovis allowed a two-game lead to evaporate after an injury to the BYU-bound Ballard in a five-game loss to the Timberwolves, who went on to win their first TRAC and section titles.
Clovis East graduated The Bee’s Co-Players of the Year in Christina Tran and Thaliana Grajeda, but returned senior starters Mossette (18 kills, 12 digs), Jocelyn Rodriguez (nine kills, 13 digs) and Abby Edwards (seven kills, five blocks), and along with key newcomers in junior middle blocker Mathias (10 kills, four blocks), sophomore hitter Diley (five kills, two blocks), sophomore libero Quisado (14 ddigs) and freshman setter Lopez five kills, 22 assists, seven digs).
The Timberwolves also have a new coach in Lauren (Albertson) Winslow, the former Clovis West and Fresno State standout who took over for Vicki Samarin.
“It’s always hard to lose,” Winslow said. “Obviously we’re competitive and want to come out on top. But we focus on the process, and we played our absolute best tonight, and I think we pushed Clovis to play their absolute best and that’s what this entire league is about.
“We’re better for it and they are better for it. I’m so excited this is the way we started off TRAC. If we keep playing this way, it’s going to be a good year.”