Clovis East and Mission Oak high schools are joining the party for the first time.
Sierra and Immanuel are back after long absences.
But the rest of the 10 teams that will gather Saturday at West Hills College Lemoore can draw from recent championship-match experience. It will be the Central Section’s first attempt at staging five volleyball finals under one roof on the same day.
For Division I second-seeded Clovis East, reaching the school’s first final – set for 8 p.m. against top-seeded Liberty-Bakersfield (33-6) – provides a cap to the turnaround the Timberwolves (32-7) have experienced since going a combined 25-40 in the first two seasons of four-year varsity standouts Thaliana Grajeda and Christina Tran.
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There’s been a tremendous growth. The biggest thing for us was perseverance. Anyone would be disappointed losing, but I think we handled it well and have shown who Clovis East is.
Clovis East four-year standout Thaliana Grajeda, whose team has reached the Central Section Division I girls volleyball final for the first time in school history after going a combined 25-40 in her first two varsity seasons
“There’s been a tremendous growth,” said Grajeda, who helped Clovis East capture its first Tri-River Athletic Conference title this season. “The biggest thing for us was perseverance. Anyone would be disappointed losing, but I think we handled it well and have shown who Clovis East is.”
For D-III second-seeded Mission Oak (27-6), reaching the school’s first final – 3 p.m. against defending champion and top-seeded Bakersfield Christian (24-7) – was a relatively quick process. The Hawks are in their seventh varsity season.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Mission Oak coach Casey Norman said. “The girls are very united as one and they play well together. They know all their hard work over the summer and preseason is paying off.”
For D-IV top-seeded Sierra (31-3) and D-V No. 2 Immanuel (13-15), it’s been more than a decade since those schools have played for section titles.
The Chieftains, who face No. 1 Minarets (30-4) at noon, last reached a section final in D-III in 2000, according to historian Bob Barnett, while the Eagles, who take on No. 1 Frazier Mountain (22-7-1) at 10:30 a.m., were D-V runner-up in 2004.
“I’m elated the girls have gotten to this point,” Sierra coach Amanda Lopez said. “With all the work they have put in this season, they have definitely earned this opportunity.”
With all the work they have put in this season, they have definitely earned this opportunity.
Sierra girls volleyball coach Amanda Lopez, whose program has reached a Central Section final for the first time since 2000
The rest of the finalists have reached recent championship matches.
Liberty was the D-I runner-up in 2012.
Central Valley Christian (29-13) is the defending Division II champion and seeded second heading into its 5:30 p.m. match against No. 1 Independence (26-8), which won the D-III title in 2011 before being promoted.
Minarets won consecutive D-V titles in 2012-2013 before moving up, and Frazier Mountain is the defending D-V champ.
CENTRAL SECTION PLAYOFFS
Saturday at West Hills College Lemoore
D-I: No. 1 Liberty (33-6) vs. No. 2 Clovis East (32-7), 8 p.m.
D-II: No. 1 Independence (26-8) vs. No. 2 Central Valley Christian (29-13), 5:30 p.m.
D-III: No. 1 Bakersfield Christian (24-7) vs. No. 2 Mission Oak (27-6), 3 p.m.
D-IV: No. 1 Sierra (31-3) vs. No. 2 Minarets (30-4), 12:30 p.m.
D-V: No. 1 Frazier Mountain (22-7-1) vs. No. 2 Immanuel (13-15), 10:30 a.m.