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The girls varsity volleyball team secured its spot in the Northern California (NorCal) Championship game with a three-set win against Turlock on the evening of Tuesday, November 22. After defeating Tracy in three straight sets on Saturday, November 19, the Bears were ready to fight for their chance to repeat last year’s NorCal success.

The Bears prepare to play.

The matchup with Turlock was a crucial one for M-A, and the energy in Ayers Gym as the match began reflected this excitement. The seventh woman club cheered on the Bears, and families and friends joined in to show their support. Despite the intensity of the match, M-A remained calm under pressure from the first point to the last. In the first set, head coach Fletcher Anderson relied on a powerful starting lineup that included four strong seniors.

Senior outside hitter Jacqueline DiSanto kicked off the match with a nice float serve and followed this with a smart kill out of middle back to bring the score to 2-0 in M-A’s favor. Turlock’s setter retaliated with an aggressive setter dump to earn her team its first point. M-A quickly regained the point, and sophomore Alicia Letvin went back to serve. Good serves and solid attacks from the front row brought the Bears to an early 5-1 lead.

 

Senior Kiana Sales attacks from the outside.

Senior Eliza Grover earned an impressive kill from the right side to bring the score to 6-3, then went back and delivered two forceful serves. Freshman middle blocker Marit Hoyem followed with an impressive stuff block to widen M-A’s lead to 8-4. Turlock called a timeout to slow the Bears down, but they kept pushing with relentless offense. Grover executed another great attack, and DiSanto followed with a kill of her own to bring the score to 12-6.

 

 

A few points later, Turlock’s setter earned another point off a setter dump, but Grover countered with an untouchable hit. Following this kill, Hoyem slammed down a nice set out of middle front, and the Bears were ahead 17-11. Senior setter Kirby Knapp continued to set up a consistent offense until the Bears took set one 25-14.

Knapp sets Letvin from middle front.

In the second set, Anderson stuck with the same lineup. M-A showed just as much fight, but Turlock rallied and kept the score much closer than before. DiSanto swung from the outside to start set two with a kill, but Turlock eventually tied the score at 5. M-A pulled ahead with a kill, but Turlock responded with a stuff block. The game continued back and forth as both teams attacked aggressively and chased down tough balls on defense.

 

Letvin and Grover put up a towering block to tie the score at 16, forcing Turlock to call a timeout in an attempt to regain control of the game. After the timeout, the score stayed close with Grover putting a ball away from left front to tie the set at 17. DiSanto tied the game at 19 with a perfectly placed kill from middle back. Grover added a kill on a fast slide set, and the Bears finally pulled ahead after a stuff block from Hoyem and senior Kiana Sales, and a roll shot kill from Sales. DiSanto ended the close set with a kill from the outside, and the Bears won 25-20.

DiSanto swings from middle back.

In the third set, the Bears were determined to take the match and move on to NorCal finals. Grover started the match with a blistering kill from middle front, and from there the Bears built a substantial lead. Turlock added to this lead with a few missed tips and hits, and M-A took advantage of these errors by keeping its offense dialed in. Hoyem contributed a kill off a quick middle set to bring the score to 12-4, and the Bears pushed ahead until DiSanto brought the score to 19-8 with an ace serve.

Grover hits through Turlock’s block.

When the Bears were up 22-10, Anderson subbed in senior setter Casey Olsen and junior outside hitter Lauren Heller to finish the match. A few successful plays later, Sales served and the Bears won 25-12. Assistant coach Lauryn Anderson noted, “Our passing was great last night. That is always a focus for us and will continue to be for Saturday’s match.”

M-A continues an outstanding postseason with a match versus Oak Ridge on Saturday, November 26, at 7 p.m. at home in Ayers Gym. L. Anderson added, “We’re focused on this coming Saturday. It’ll be a hard-fought match with a lot on the line and our focus will be on taking care of our side and responding to whatever Oak Ridge throws our way.” A win in the NorCal finals would send M-A to Division 1 State Championships on December 2.

View live tweets of the game here

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