Immanuel High girls volleyball coach Janell Gonsalves was there for the end of the Eagles’ run as the Central Section’s premier small-schools girls volleyball program.
Her daughter, Brooke, Lindsay Unruh and Co. are now ushering in a new era for the private Mennonite school from Reedley.
With Brooke Gonsalves delivering 40 assists and Unruh 18 kills, second-seeded Immanuel captured its first section title since 1997 and 10th overall with a 25-13, 28-26, 25-23 victory over No. 1 Frazier Mountain in the Division V final Saturday at West Hills College-Lemoore.
It was a reversal from last season, when the Falcons rolled to a 25-16, 25-10, 25-15 in the Eagles’ first trip to a section final since 2004.
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We came together as a team. It’s really one of the best feelings when you can have everyone connected as a team.
Immanuel High’s Brooke Gonsalves after beating Frazier Mountain for the Central Section Division V championship
“We realized what we did wrong in our training and everything else,” said Brooke Gonsalves, one of six returning players from a team that entered last season’s playoffs with a sub-.500 record. “Last year was a learning experience for us. And this year we really changed it by preparing ourselves more mentally. We were not as strong a mental team last year. This year we really picked it up.”
Immanuel (23-15) led 8-3 and 16-9 before Unruh’s sixth kill of the first set put the Eagles up 24-10. Ava Galpin, who contributed 10 kills overall, finished off Frazier Mountain (30-4) in the first set with a kill from the middle.
Last year we came in a little timid. We didn’t have the confidence.
Lindsay Unruh, who had 18 kills in the Eagles’ victory
“It gave us the confidence to know they are beatable,” Unruh said. “Last year we came in a little timid. We didn’t have the confidence. This year we came in with the confidence that our system works and that we’ve worked hard for it. Nobody works harder than us.”
The Falcons, who won consecutive D-V titles the past two seasons, rolled out to leads of 12-4 and 19-9 in the second set before the Eagles began to rally. An 8-0 run with Danielle Jeffries at the service line allowed Immanuel to pull within one at 17-16.
Jeffries would make four of her 10 kills from there, and consecutive kills from Unruh and Brooke Gonsalves provided the final two points of the second set.
“This team fights,” said the former Janell Gruenstein, who was a senior on Immanuel’s last section champion in 1997 and took over as Eagles coach in 2014. “They are the weirdest team. I’ve seen them come back from like 7-18. They are fighters. They like to do that and drive me crazy.”
The Eagles led 16-6 in the third set and had to hold off a Frazier Mountain rally that saw the Falcons close to 24-23.
Immanuel, which won nine section titles between 1981-97, will advance to the CIF State Championship tournament, which begins Wednesday. Playoff seedings will be announced Sunday.
Division V championship
IMMANUEL 3, FRAZIER MOUNTAIN 0
25-13, 28-26, 25-23. I, Danielle Jeffries 10 kills; Breanna Wood 4 digs; Lindsay Unruh 18 kills; Brooke Gonsalves 40 assists; Ava Galpin 10 kills. FM, Elliana Shillig 13 kills; Alexa Fausto 9 kills. Records: Immanuel 23-15; Frazier Mountain 30-4.