The annual preseason meeting between the El Dorado and Golden Sierra girls volleyball teams gave fans plenty cheer about before the Cougars fought off spirited rallies and comebacks from the determined Grizzlies to prevail with a four-set 25-19, 25-27, 25-23, 25-19 victory Tuesday evening.
Sitting in the coaches’ chairs were two longtime friendly rivals, Justin Cox of the Grizzlies and the Cougars’ Sharon Hardy, who orchestrated numerous El Dorado championships during the 1990s with her “Fab Five” players.
El Dorado appeared on its way to dominating the varsity match in the early going, rushing out to an 11-4 lead in the first set. But momentum shifted after a Golden Sierra timeout and both teams started scrapping for every point. The Griz chipped away but the early deficit proved too much to overcome.
Jordyn Condit’s ace pulled the Grizzlies within four at 22-18 but the Cougars answered with a set from Kylee Hardy to Courtney Macklin for the kill. Grizzly Jamie Hinton’s kill returned serve to Golden Sierra before El Dorado’s outside hitter, Lena Gavin, closed the set with a pair of kills.
The Griz went on attack early in the second set and instead of falling behind they kept it close. The teams exchanged leads with kills from Hinton and Condit and two well-placed tips from Becca Brown. The Cougars responded with Mackenzie Niemann’s ace, Kylee Hardy’s dump, a combination block by Gavin and Niemann, and Kylee’s set for a Gavin kill.
Brown’s second tip put Golden Sierra up 16-15 and the Griz extended their advantage behind Condit’s four-point service run. The Cougars tied the set at 20 all on Keeley Franz’ tip and again at 23 on a lift call against the Grizzlies. Kylee’s dig followed by Golden Sierra return in the net had the Cougars at match point, 24-23, before Condit’s cross-court kill forced a side out.
The Grizzlies tied it at 25 on Abigail Wever’s kill down the middle, went up by one on Hinton’s kill, and put the set away after Brown ended a long rally with a tip.
“We took losing as a challenge,” Kylee said. “It was a roller-coaster ride tonight.” Macklin added, “We were energized to get back out there. One of our problems is we get down on ourselves so we have to work on consistency and not getting down.”
Golden Sierra led for much of the third game but the Cougars rallied from a 21-23 deficit, pulling even on Macklin’s block and grabbing the victory with Kylee’s ace and Franz’ deflected kill.
“We’ve lost close games all season so far,” Golden Sierra assistant coach Jeff LaShell said. “We miss our terminators from last year — our big outside hitters. We have a good combination of ball control on this team but we need to work on closing the block. They are a resilient bunch.”
El Dorado used the momentum from its two-set lead to race out to a 15-6 advantage in game three before Golden Sierra mounted a comeback. Macklin led the charge in the middle with help from Niemann as they controlled play at the net. The Griz put together a five-point run on Wever’s serve before Niemann’s kill returned serve to the Cougars. Kylee’s set to Franz put the match in the books.
“All of the girls are overachievers and work super hard. You can’t ask for a better group,” coach Hardy said. “Golden Sierra had a great defense and we had to block. They made us better. What was awesome was we had more in-system balls tonight and we were able to execute a lot of our plays.”