El Dorado High’s varsity volleyball program closed out its regular season on the highest of high notes Tuesday evening at home, defeating crosstown rival Union Mine 25-17, 23-25, 25-19, 24-26, 18-16 en route to earning a tie with the Lady Diamondbacks for second place in the Sierra Valley Conference.
“That was just an absolute dogfight out there tonight,” Cougar head coach Sharon Hardy said after the match. “It was great to see them out there playing so well together as a team.”
For Cougar seniors Kylee Hardy, Keeley Franz, Courtney Macklin, Lena Gavin and Madison Danker, it was the last regular season home game they would play in El Dorado blue.
Macklin was an offensive presence, tallying 30 kills on the night, while Hardy kept pace at every key moment of the match, putting herself in position to finish with 69 assists. Piper Raleigh, Gavin and Franz gave Hardy the passing support she needed to run things up front.
Union Mine put up more than a fight throughout the evening, a quality head coach Marti Howton commended after the match.
“I thought the girls played very well tonight,” Howton said. “It was a match where some things just didn’t go our way, but regardless, I’m very proud of my team and the way they played.”
Overcoming a 9-4 deficit in game two, the D’backs, led by two three-point service runs by junior Andrea Barnes and senior Kaitlyn Console, clawed their way back into the fray, and when needing to cure another trailing score of 18-14, went to Barnes and Sarah Phillis for some powerful offense to even the scoreboard up with a two-point win.
Union Mine maintained momentum early in game three, but El Dorado’s stubborn defense and communication allowed the Cougars enough determination to grind out the win.
“I think one of our big strengths tonight was that we didn’t get down on ourselves,” Gavin said. “There were plenty of moments where we could have been frustrated and given up but we stayed together and supported each other tonight.”
Diamondback junior setter Brooke Howton proved tough as nails defensively in game four, fully committing for digs and giving Phillis and Barnes the opportunities they needed to muscle out the overtime win to force a game five.
After a seemingly eternal exchange of points, it appeared as though Union Mine had the evening all but wrapped up, sitting on a 14-12 lead with game point in the crosshairs.
The Cougars rallied and managed to tie it at 16-16 behind two digs from Hardy, two passes from Gavin, and two kills from Macklin. Macklin had the go-ahead point for El Dorado, and Franz put it away to seal the victory.
“We wanted this so bad,” Macklin said with a smile after the match. “We wanted to beat Union Mine and close out this season with a win, and it feels incredible.”
The top three teams in the Sierra Valley Conference will advance to playoffs — making the match itself valuable only in terms of bragging rights — but for El Dorado the win symbolizes what a team can accomplish with the belief that it can succeed.
“I think the fact that we truly believed in ourselves helped us win,” Kylee said. “We really believe that we can beat a team like Union Mine, and once we all began to believe that we could do that this year, we started playing better together. I love this team. I love El Dorado.”
Brandon Anicich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org