Lady Dragons repeat as SCL champs
Spikers rally past Petaluma in 5, claim tourney top-seed
Sophomore Ciara Smith skies for a kill during the Lady Dragons’ dramatic come-from-behind SCL title-win over Petaluma Tuesday night in the Trojans’ gym.
With the Sonoma County League title on the line Tuesday night, and the co-defending champions battling it out to retain the crown, the visiting Sonoma Valley High School varsity volleyball girls looked and played confident in taking command early and rolling to a 25-18 first-set victory over longtime SCL rival Petaluma.
But the young Lady Dragons – with only two seniors on the roster – couldn’t maintain their momentum and were outplayed by a pumped-up Petaluma team, which jumped out to quick leads and used strong serving, solid defense and well-placed shots to hold on for 20-25 and 19-25 wins in the second and third sets, respectively.
Then, when the Trojan girls took a 20-17 lead in a see-saw fourth-set, the Sonoma spikers were facing the end of their reign, until they stepped up and showed the heart and competitive spirit of a champion.
The Lady Dragons rallied for a 25-22 fourth-set victory, and, in the 15-point winner-take-all fifth-set, they surged past Petaluma for a 15-7 triumph and captured their second-straight SCL championship.
Comprising Sonoma’s back-to-back SCL title-winning volleyball team – directed by head coach Mindy Neves and assistant coaches Brittany Anderson and Michele Foster – are seniors Allyson Beckwith and Alexis Long-Am; juniors Kaitlyn Boldt, Kayten Mak, Gianna Monterosso, Amber Rose and Janeth Silva; and sophomores Anastasia Claros, Hannah Herrick, Ciara Smith and returning all-leaguers Mackenzie Albrecht and Delaney Swanson.
“I truly believe that this has been a season of building character. Tonight was yet another great learning opportunity for our team,” said Neves. “We were dedicated to trust the process, trust each other, and trust in our abilities. We visualized as a team and it paid off with a league title as the great reward. The integrity of this team is incredible and I am a very proud coach.”
In their convincing first-set win, the Lady Dragons pulled away from Petaluma – who they also beat in their first meeting – behind two Albrecht kills, Herrick and Swanson’s kill each, and a pair of “in-your-face” blocks by Smith.
But the Trojan girls showed why they were also a defending champion by dominating the play in winning both the second and third sets, and were ready to bust out in celebration after scoring their 20th point to go up by three on Sonoma in the fourth set.
Faced with letting the match, and the repeat title, slip their grasp after such an energetic and strong start to the evening, the Lady Dragons suddenly got a ray of hope with a Petaluma service error and rallied to even the set at 21-21 on a Herrick serve and Albrecht kill.
Then Herrick served up three more winners, including a clutch ace, and, after Swanson rose at the net for an emphatic kill, Sonoma had seized a dramatic fourth-set victory from the jaws of defeat.
With the tension in the packed Petaluma gym at a dizzying height, the Lady Dragons took the floor for the deciding 15-point fifth set looking calm and confident.
Sonoma then proceeded to build a commanding 10-4 lead en route to its 15-7 title-clinching win behind a statement-kill by Herrick to open the set; five straight Monterosso service points with an ace; two Albrecht kills and a block; Beckwith’s kill and three consecutive service points, including an ace; and two Smith kills.
Leading the Lady Dragons were libero Claros’ 30 digs and one assist; Swanson’s 23 digs and 11 kills; Albrecht’s 17 digs, 14 assists, six kills, four solo blocks and one ace; Monterosso’s 16 assists and 16 digs, to go with four aces; Herrick’s seven kills, two aces and one solo block; Smith’s six kills, two solo blocks and one assisted block; and Beckwith’s three kills, two aces and one assist.
Along with winning the title, the Sonoma spikers – 25-6 overall record, 11-1 SCL mark – earned both a North Coast Section first-round home match, and the top-seed for the annual SCL postseason tournament.
The Lady Dragons will host fourth-seed Healdsburg in the opening round of the SCL tourney at 7 p.m. this Tuesday, Oct. 30, in Pfeiffer Gym, while in the other first-round match, second-seed Petaluma hosts third-seed Analy, with the two winners playing for the tournament title on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the highest seed.