Clovis High’s hopes of repeating as Tri-River Athletic Conference girls volleyball champion were dealt a major blow following an injury to Taylen Ballard, one of the Central Section’s premier players.
The junior outside hitter and Bee All-Star last season rolled her ankle during an Oct. 6 match against Clovis East. The Cougars were up 11-8 in the third set after winning the first two when Ballard went down.
Without the 6-foot-3 oral commit to BYU, Clovis lost the match 21-25, 24-26, 25-19, 25-12, 15-12.
Clovis, which captured its first Division I title last season, has won only once since, a sweep of Clovis North on Oct. 8. The Cougars lost four-set matches to Central on Oct. 13 and Buchanan on Oct. 15 while falling to 1-3 in TRAC play. Central leads the conference at 4-0.
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Clovis coach Richard Lake said Ballard, who is in a walking boot, could be back in action by the last week of TRAC play, which begins Nov. 3, or by the start of the section playoffs Nov. 10.
Ballard has a team-leading 380 kills. The other 12 players on the Cougars’ roster have combined for 445. Ballard is also a force defensively with 134 digs, which ranks second for the Cougars.
We knew if something like this happened, it would be difficult. She’s been about 70 percent of our offense. Our kids are still competing, though.
Clovis girls volleyball coach Richard Lake on his team, which has lost two of three matches since star junior Taylen Ballard went down with an ankle injury
“We knew if something like this happened, it would be difficult,” Lake said. “She’s been about 70 percent of our offense. Our kids are still competing, though. We’re not trying to replace her with one person. We’ve needed several to step up. It’s helped create a little more depth. I think when we get her back for the playoffs, we’ll be that much stronger.”
Keri Leake, Erin Mossette and Makena Ogas have helped fill the void offensively, while Shelby Welton has picked up the slack on defense.
The silver lining in Ballard’s injury, according to Lake, has been rest for her right shoulder. She has lined up 777 attacks this season.
Ballard’s injury isn’t the only serious blow to a TRAC title contender.
Perennial power Clovis West lost junior opposite hitter Tiersa Bailey for the rest of the season with a fractured left fibula suffered Oct. 15 in the second set of a 21-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-15 victory over Clovis East.
Bailey was seven for seven on kill attempts – having the game of her life, according to Golden Eagles coach Rhonda DeRuiter – at the time of the injury.
Bailey, who has also played outside hitter and even done some setting, is expected to be out at least four to six weeks. She most likely will be able to return to volleyball for the club season in January.
“She has been a huge part of our team in every way,” DeRuiter said.
Sarah Armendariz has stepped into Bailey’s position on the court, with Maddy Letterman assuming a bigger role off the bench.
The Golden Eagles have also been without libero Lili Tavlan (concussion) and outside hitter Kegan Simas (ankle) at times this season.
Girls tennis playoffs set – For the fifth straight season, Buchanan has earned the No. 1 seed for the section Division I girls team tennis playoffs.
The defending champion Bears (19-2) have a bye when the playoffs begin Thursday and await the winner between No. 8 Garces and No. 9 Clovis in the quarterfinals Oct. 28. Semifinals are Nov. 4 and the finals are Nov. 10.
Buchanan has been top-seeded in six of the past seven seasons while winning three titles and finishing second twice.
5 Straight years Buchanan has been seeded No. 1 for the Central Section girls tennis playoffs
The Bears have not lost to a section opponent since falling to Stockdale in the 2013 D-I final.
Other top seeds include Redwood in D-II, Independence (last season’s D-IV champion) in D-III, Wasco in D-IV and defending champ Sierra Pacific in D-V. Bakersfield Christian (D-II) and Liberty-Madera Ranchos (D-III) are also reigning champs.
Individually, Bullard’s Chelsey Ruiz will chase a second straight section title after capturing the County/Metro Athletic Conference singles championship.
Ruiz beat Memorial’s Madeleine Stanley 6-1, 6-2 in the final.
She will be one of the top seeds in the North Area tournament, which is set for Oct. 30-31 at Buchanan. The Central Area tournament is set for Redwood and Garces will host the South Area tourney. Redwood also hosts the section individual finals Nov. 6-7.
Bullard’s Zoe Vargas, twice a section doubles medalist for the Knights, teamed with Kate Swertfager to win the CMAC title.
Other league champions included Clovis North’s Elizabeth Schulz (singles) and Buchanan’s Lauren Lee and Lasya Gudipudi (doubles) in the Tri-River Athletic Conference, Strathmore’s Sharmila Thiagarajan (singles) and Sierra Pacific’s Kelsey Gong and Monica Gong in the East Sequoia, and Firebaugh’s Roxie Avila (singles) and Dos Palos’ Cristina Almaraz and Alejandra Cornejo (doubles) in the West Sequoia.
Central Section volleyball rankings
(Records through Oct. 17)
- 1. Liberty-Bakersfield 25-6
- 2. Centennial 20-5
- 3. Independence 14-6
- 4. Central 28-5
- 5. Clovis West 23-12
- 6. Clovis East 23-7
- 7. Clovis 19-12
- 8. Frontier 23-10
- 9. Central Valley Christian 19-9
- 10. Garces 15-8
- 11. Bakersfield 7-11
- 12. Clovis North 17-15
- 13. Exeter 27-5
- 14. Buchanan 15-15
- 15. Stockdale 13-15
- D-I: 1. Liberty; 2. Centennial; 3. Central
- D-II: 1. Independence; 2. CVC; 3. Garces
- D-III: 1. Bakersfield Christian 17-7; 2. Yosemite 24-8; 3. Mission Oak 19-6
- D-IV: 1. Liberty-Madera Ranchos 22-6; 2. Sierra 21-1; 3. Minarets 20-4
- D-V: 1. Frazier Mountain 16-7-1; 2. Immanuel 7-12; 3. California City 15-8-2