With the end of their Central Section volleyball championship hopes in sight, Sierra High didn’t panic.
And when big leads in what could have been the decisive third set disappeared, the Chieftains kept their composure.
“These girls let errors go behind them, and that’s key,” Sierra coach Amanda Lopez said. “They keep playing the game until the whistle blows.”
The top-seeded Chieftains battled back for a 23-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-12 victory over mountain neighbor and second-seeded Minarets in the Division IV final Saturday at West Hills College. It was Sierra’s sixth section title overall and first since 1999.
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Sierra advances to the CIF Southern California Regionals, which begin Tuesday. Playoff pairings will be announced Sunday.
32-3 Record Sierra will carry into Southern California Regional playoffs
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” said Jordan Falk, Sierra’s three-year varsity standout. “But this team has made major comebacks before, so I believed we could do it.”
Sierra, which swept Minarets 25-23, 26-24, 25-19 on Sept. 8, rolled to leads of 16-9 and 18-13 in the third set.
The Mustangs rallied to tie it 19-19 following a Chieftains’ hitting error, but Minarets was long on the ensuing serve and Sierra never trailed again.
We couldn’t let negativity bring us down. With my team, anything is possible.
Sierra setter Kinlee Rix
“At that point, it was just positive thinking,” said Chieftains’ setter Kinlee Rix, also a third-year varsity player. “We couldn’t let negativity bring us down. With my team, anything is possible. We have so much heart. It was like a storybook ending. The odds were against us but we pulled through.”
Sierra, which lost in the section semifinals each of the previous two seasons, never trailed in the fourth set and rallied from 9-7 down in the fifth.
“This is the greatest feeling ever,” Falk said. “And the greatest group of girls ever.”
Falk led the Chieftains (32-3) with 14 kills. Tori Carlos added 11 kills and four blocks, Rix had 25 assists and Alex Smith contributed 15 digs.
Carlee Boomer had 14 kills and 39 digs for Minarets (30-5), which won consecutive D-V titles in 2013 and 2012 before being promoted to D-IV. The Mustangs also received eight kills from Sami Grant, seven kills from Julie Castleman, 35 digs from Patricia Tomasian and 22 assists from Holly Walsh.
“They played their hearts out,” Mustangs coach Jessica Carter said. “I’m so proud of them. There is nothing I would change. They left everything out there.”