Clovis News: Sports

Clovis West moves on at volleyball regionals

Clovis West High isn't turning in its volleyball uniforms today because, somehow, the Golden Eagles found something more after delivering 70 minutes of excellence Tuesday night.

What they did to open the night at home against the perennial state power Torrey Pines-San Diego was astonishing -- a 6-0 lead and a 25-20 win in set 1; a 17-4 lead and a 25-9 pasting in set 2; and a 21-14 lead in the third and what would surely be the final set of the Southern California Regional first-rounder.

Not so.

And to think it was what fourth-seeded Clovis West did in the final 15 minutes of a match that would extend to five sets and well over 2 hours that would prove to be the most important of all.

"We fought back and finished it," said Emily Jacobson, a senior middle blocker whose two kills launched a 10-4 run that closed a 15-9 fifth set and the match.

Junior Shannon Leary sizzled three of her mind-bending nine aces at the feet of the Falcons' back row in the final surge for the Eagles, who recovered after shocking 26-24 losses in sets 3 and 4. And it was Leary who ended it with a left-side angle kill.

"I was really proud how we responded in game 5, but we've been doing that all year long," Clovis West coach Rhonda DeRuiter said. "There's something about that crunch time -- the girls really get after it."

Saturday, in the SoCal semifinals, the Eagles will visit top-seeded Dos Pueblos-Santa Barbara (31-2), which surprisingly also had to reach deep in set 5 to escape with a 3-2 win over No. 6 Los Alamitos.

The starting time hasn't been determined at Dos Pueblos, which is ranked second in the state.

Clovis West is ranked 15th, but looked better, especially early, on a night Jacobson had 22 kills, Melody Mandelbaum delivered 54 assists and 12 digs, and libero Rachel Duncan dug 22 times and passed brilliantly out of the back row.

Lyndsie Petersen had three of her 11 digs in the match-opening 6-0 run that sent San Diego Section D-I runner-up Torrey Pines into a tailspin that appeared irreversible.

With Falcons fans muttering in disgust the prospects of quickly returning to their cars for the 6-hour drive back home to the affluent area near Del Mar in San Diego's North County, their team was lost for two reasons -- Clovis West's phenomenal defense and the absence of Torrey Pines senior setter Jenny Woolway, out of uniform for the first time in three years because of a knee injury.

"We were in a new situation and had to make some position changes," said Torrey Pines coach Jim Harrah, who learned Monday at 5 p.m. that UC Davis-bound Woolway wouldn't play.

But when Woolway's replacement, Belinda Kraemer found herself, the Falcons reversed the match's direction behind the big swings of additional college-bound talent in Katie Dutchman (Northwestern), Alyse Hensley (Loyola Marymount) and junior Frannie Cormier.

"They've got some girls who can absolutely rip the ball," DeRuiter said. "We kind of backed off a little bit and were just putting the ball in play instead of being aggressive on our end as well. Then our girls really got after it."

Harrah applauded them: "The setter [Mandelbaum] is outstanding and No. 5 [Jacobson] is very good in the middle. And they're strong enough at other positions they don't have to depend on them."

Jacobson finished with only two errors in 34 swings and a .559 hitting percentage.

"A .350% is hall of fame, like baseball," Clovis West assistant Travis Herb said.

And Jacobson has had several other similar performances against national-class competition, yet she remains unsigned by a college.

"Baffling," Herb said of the senior with a 4.2 grade point average. "She's a college volleyball player that no one knows about. It's ridiculous."

In other action ...

Division IV: Brelle De Groot delivered 20 kills, 16 digs and two blocks as fourth-seeded Central Valley Christian won its 24th straight -- a 25-21, 25-27, 19-25, 25-22, 17-15 decision over No. 5 Laguna Beach.

Division V: Ashyln White served the final two points after freshman Chantelle Brown had served the previous four as fourth-seeded Fresno Christian defeated No. 5 Fairmont Prep 18-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-13, 17-15.

White finished with 28 assists and Jessica Searles and Emily Schoetler provided 23 and 18 kills as the Eagles (26-10) advanced to Saturday's semifinal at No. 1 Tri City Christian-Vista of the San Diego Section.