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M-A’s girls varsity volleyball team has had a truly outstanding 2016 season. The Bears battled through a tough preseason and swept the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) before moving into the postseason. After losing their first Central Coast Section (CCS) match, the Bears went on to play for the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Division 1 Northern California (NorCal) championship title.

On Saturday, November 26, M-A played Oak Ridge from the Central Valley and won in four exciting sets to clinch the CIF NorCal title. The Bears played at home for the last time this season, and Ayers Gym was packed with supportive family members, friends, and an enthusiastic group of Seventh Woman Club members.

Head coach Fletcher Anderson explained, “We had a goal of getting back to state and having a chance at redemption after last year. This win means we get a chance at achieving our overall goal.”

Senior Kirby Knapp sets as freshman Marit Hoyem approaches.

Senior Kirby Knapp sets as freshman Marit Hoyem approaches.

Saturday’s game was emotional for many families, particularly for those of the eight seniors on the team. This was the seniors’ last home match – the last time they would play together in front of such an excited home crowd. The match marked the end of a very successful few years for M-A, as the Bears’ starting lineup consisted mainly of seniors who filled almost every position and carried the team to consecutive NorCal titles.

In the first set, Anderson stuck to his typical starting lineup which included three seniors, as well as M-A’s two younger middles, junior Lauren Heller as outside hitter, and sophomore Erica Fischer as libero.

Fischer receives an attack from Oak Ridge.

Fischer receives an attack from Oak Ridge.

M-A started with the ball, and senior Jacqueline DiSanto dished up a few powerful jump serves. Then, the Bears took off, firing on all cylinders, and quickly built a 5-1 lead. M-A continued to build on this lead throughout the set, looking sharp on defense and offense and taking advantage of Oak Ridge’s errors. Despite several missed serves, Oak Ridge came within striking distance, but the Bears pulled off a 25-19 win.

The Bears celebrate after winning a point.

The Bears celebrate after winning a point.

In the second set, Anderson kept the same lineup but subbed in senior Kiana Sales in the back row for Heller. Oak Ridge played scrappily and kept the score close, tying the game at 15 before M-A went on a kill streak, led by DiSanto and senior right side hitter Eliza Grover, to regain a 19-15 lead. The Bears kept pushing to make the score 21-16, and Oak Ridge called a timeout in an effort to slow down the game.

 

A kill by DiSanto widens M-A’s lead in the second set.

M-A responded by playing as fast as ever, and a kill from DiSanto ended the second set 25-16 in M-A’s favor. The third set was a chance for the Bears to take the match and the NorCal title, but despite a valiant effort and aggressive plays, they fell to the Trojans 25-21.

 

DiSanto with a kill in set three.

After a tough loss in the third set, the Bears rallied and fought even harder in the fourth set. The set started off with a kill by Oak Ridge, but Grover responded for M-A by putting away two consecutive balls to bring the score to 2-1. Sales and sophomore middle blocker Alicia Letvin executed a stuff block to widen the lead to 3-1, and at a 5-1 deficit, Oak Ridge called a timeout.

 

Letvin earns a kill.

After the timeout, M-A played with determination and, after standout offense by Grover and DiSanto and excellent serving by senior setter Kirby Knapp, the Bears expanded their lead to 20-7. Oak Ridge retaliated and eventually brought the score to 24-14, but a hitting error by the Trojans ended the set and match by the score of 25-14 in the final set. After the exciting match, Anderson reflected, “So many of us have improved, our middles have come a long way. Eliza is stepping into her role as the destroyer, and our libero who didn’t even see much play time in the beginning of the season has come a long way. And they are all learning to trust each other and play as a team, which is the biggest attribute to our success.”

 

M-A wins the match.

After celebrating his team’s NorCal title, Anderson looked forward to the state championship game and said, “We will approach this game just as we have the rest of our playoff matches. The girls are hungry!” The Bears look forward to competing in the Division 1 state championship match against Edison on Friday, December 2, at Santiago Canyon College in Orange County.

View live tweets of the game here.

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