Clovis West lost a two-set lead, then fell into a 6-2 hole in the fifth and final set to Central before making a final charge behind Tiersa Bailey and Sarah Armendariz to win 15-10 in a stirring Central Section Division I volleyball semifinal Tuesday night before a large and loud crowd in the Golden Eagles’ East Gym.
Bailey ended it, taking a feed from six-year teammate Armendariz and beating double-team defense with a middle kill as second-seeded and 34-9 Clovis West earned a rematch with No. 1 Liberty-Bakersfield.
The Patriots of the Southwest Yosemite League were also extended the distance, winning 3-2 at home against No. 4 Clovis in the other semifinal.
Liberty, which swept the Eagles 3-0 in a nonleague match on the Patriots’ court in September, will play Clovis West for the D-I title Saturday at 8 p.m. at West Hills College-Lemoore. Four additional section division championships will precede it.
Rhonda DeRuiter will be pursuing her sixth section championship in 12 years as Eagles coach after going 6-for-6 in section titles at Central Valley Christian.
But she admittedly was “sweating it” after Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Central (33-11) mounted the 6-2 lead in the fifth set on the 29th of 30 kills by sophomore Makayla Lewis.
“We lost our momentum and energy and, then all of a sudden, we had too much,” DeRuiter said. “We needed to calm a little bit and find a happy medium.”
Aubrey Olson and Micah Hebert then launched a Clovis West 7-1 run with a one-hit kill and ace, respectively.
The Grizzlies answered with a point before the Eagles completed the run on two kills and a block by Armendariz, an extraordinary combination dig/kill of a Lewis torpedo by Champney Pulliam and a Bailey kill.
It was Clovis West 9-8 when the Eagles flew away on three kills by Bailey, two aces by Faith Jensen and a kill by Armendariz on a reverse set by Pulliam.
Bailey, who has played with Armendariz since seventh grade at Clovis West intermediate feeder Kastner, pleaded for the final ball: “I looked at my setter and said, ‘You give me this ball right now.’ ”
Bailey finished with 14 kills and 11 digs; Hebert had four aces, 23 kills and eight digs and Jensen added 24 digs for TRAC champion Clovis West, which won 30-28 and 25-19 in the first two sets before Central responded with 25-20 and 25-22 set wins.
Then there was Armendariz with marvelous versatility – three aces, 14 kills, 35 assists and 11 digs.
Lewis also delivered seven blocks for Central coach Randy Burriss. And he’s comforted knowing he has yet another gifted sophomore in left-handed Bailey Combs, who had 17 kills.
Division II – Second-seeded Exeter (32-6) rode 13 kills and two aces from Olivia Harden to a 25-21, 25-23, 24-14 victory over No. 3 Redwood (28-10) to reach Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. final.
The Monarchs also received eight kills, 14 digs, two aces and two blocks from Corinne Acosta as they won their 11th straight match heading into the final against No. 1 Garces (21-10), which advanced with a 25-20, 25-17, 25-20 win over No. 5 Sanger (24-13).
The Rangers were led by Brooke Gilcrest, who had 16 kills, seven digs and two blocks.
Division III – Top-seeded Bakersfield Christian and No. 2 Mission Oak set up a second straight clash for the division title after the defending champion Eagles pulled a 25-11, 25-8, 25-17 sweep of No. 4 Hanford West (24-12) behind 10 kills from Demi Owns, while the Hawks got 11 kills and four blocks from Samantha Arellano and 10 kills from Christina Pilgrim in a 25-20, 25-17, 25-17 defeat of No. 3 Yosemite (25-5).
The Eagles (33-1) have won 24 straight, while the Hawks (29-7) are on a nine-match winning streak heading into the 3 p.m. final.
Bakersfield Christian beat Mission Oak 20-25, 25-17, 25-14, 27-25 in last season’s final, and 25-19, 25-18 in the final of the Redwood Tournament on Sept. 17.
Division IV – No. 2 Sierra will aim for a second straight division title after getting seven kills, nine digs and 13 assists from Maesyn Rix in a 25-15, 25-17, 25-21 victory over No. 3 Taft (27-6-3).
The Chieftains (27-4) also received nine kills and eight digs from Taylor Saar and seven kills from Tori Carlos while rolling into a division final rematch against No. 4 Minarets (27-7), which pulled a 28-26, 23-25, 25-22, 25-16 upset of No. 1 Liberty-Madera Ranchos (30-4). The final is set for 12:30 p.m.
Sierra rallied to beat Minarets 23-25, 19-25, 25-22, 25-20, 15-12 in last season’s final.
The Chieftains and Mustangs have split two matches this season, with Minarets winning 24-26, 25-23, 25-15, 22-25, 15-8 on Sept. 13 and Sierra winning 25-21, 25-15 on Sept. 17.
Division V – A third finals rematch is on tap after top-seeded Frazier Mountain earned a 25-18, 25-11, 21-25, 25-12 win over No. 5 Kings Christian (16-9-1), while No. 2 Immanuel rolled to a 25-18, 25-17, 25-9 defeat of No. 3 California City (18-9-4).
The Falcons (30-3) and Eagles (22-15) kick off the section’s five divisional finals at West Hills College-Lemoore at 10 a.m.
Lindsay Unruh led Immanuel with 15 kills. Danielle Jefferies added nine kills and Brooke Gonsalves added 31 assists for the Eagles.
Frazier Mountain swept Immanuel 25-16, 25-10, 25-15 in last season’s final.