The opposition was impressed, even if Clovis West High volleyball coach Rhonda DeRuiter wasn't as much.
Following the Golden Eagles' 25-22, 25-17, 26-24 win in the Central Section playoffs Tuesday night, coach Tom Clarke of fourth-seeded Bakersfield praised the top seeds for their "solid, mistake-free volleyball" in advancing to a fourth straight Division I final.
Clovis West will host No. 2 Centennial – a 25-21, 25-19, 22-25, 27-25 winner over No. 3 Liberty – on Thursday in a rematch of last season's final.
DeRuiter, however, said Clovis West (29-5) is capable of more.
"That was pretty average for us," DeRuiter said. "When we are in our groove, we make way fewer mistakes than that. And we'll need to be on our groove Thursday."
Centennial (28-5) swept Clovis West 25-22, 25-17, 25-18 in Bakersfield last season, ending the Golden Eagles' two-year grasp on the title. Clovis West and the Golden Hawks, who return five players from their championship team, have not met this season.
"We're really excited," said Clovis West senior Lauren Meador, who had 13 kills. "Hopefully, we can get it back after last year."
After seeing their run as champs end last season, the Golden Eagles are eager to capture the school's third section title in girls volleyball. Clovis West enters on an eight-match winning streak.
"Our whole season, we've worked up to this point," said senior libero Hannah Butler, who had 26 digs. "We want to come out and finish."
Clovis West trailed in all three sets, but played its best when it counted.
The Golden Eagles were down 20-19 in the first set, but got kills from Lisa Armendariz, Ashley Grootendorst and Danielle Lauber – and three Bakersfield errors – to go up 1-0 in the match.
Clovis West trailed 8-4 early in set 2 before a pair of Drillers errors, an ace from Butler, a kill from Meador and a pair of blocks from Grootendorst put the Golden Eagles back on top for good.
"We really focus on making the other team make the errors," Meador said.
There were 13 lead changes in the third set before a Meador kill followed by a Bakersfield hitting error finished the match.
"I felt like we played way too safe," Clarke said. "We had an opportunity to win that match, but made too many mental mistakes."
The Golden Eagles received kills from six different players, including a match co-leading 13 from Lauber and seven from Grootendorst. Clovis West also got 16 assists apiece from co-setters Emily Minugh and Shelby Flores.
"It was mostly about us getting back to what we do best," DeRuiter said. "That's getting into our offense and using a lot of different hitters."
Clovis West has won 17 of 18 matches since a 20-25, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24 loss to Division IV power Central Valley Christian on Sept. 27, a loss that DeRuiter said prompted some adjustments from her coaching staff.
"We sat down and looked at what we were doing," DeRuiter said. "When we needed to make simple adjustments, we couldn't. Now we are much more able to make adjustments when we need to."