No intro, set-up or script before or after El Dorado’s Sierra Valley Conference season-ending match with Union Mine. Queens’ “We Are the Champions” blaring from the loudspeakers said it all.
The Cougars actually clinched their first-ever league title earlier. Thursday they returned home to relish the moment with Senior Night in addition to turning back the Diamondbacks in three straight, 25-15, 25-12, 26-24.
Tomorrow, El Dorado embarks on the program’s first playoff appearance, hosting Capital Valley Conference No. 3 seed Del Campo. A win puts the Cougars back at home for Thursday’s second round against either Vacaville Christian or Placer.
“We’ve never been to playoffs, never won league so it’s a lot of firsts for us,” El Dorado coach Alan Magat said. “Overall the boys played really, really well and we exceeded our expectations this season.”
El Dorado (14-1) out-manned and out-gunned Union Mine, easily taking the first two sets before the Cougars’ Seniors-only lineup for the third set outlasted the D’backs.
Prior to the first serve, El Dorado honored its senior class of Shea Jamrowski, Matthew Ehly, Weston Rademacher, Tait Miller, Dustin Brown, Landen Warren, Dominic Morgan, Leo Rodriguez, Caleb Wetmore and Nathan Combrink.
“We’re losing a lot and I’ll miss them. It’s a rebuilding year for us next season,” Magat said.
With just four returning, El Dorado’s time is now. The Cougars didn’t look past Union Mine as Elijah Magat’s deadly jump-serve got El Dorado going in the first two sets.
Miller was a tough matchup for the D’backs as he blasted away off sets from Elijah and Brown. Rademacher handled the middle while Jamrowski led the defensive effort. Warren’s lengthy service run in the first set allowed the Cougars to extend.
El Dorado rolled in the second set but its play slowed in the third as Union Mine came on behind the hitting of Austin Russell, the setting of Shay Barba and the jump-serving of Austin Maranville.
Set No. 3 featured 10 ties and 11 lead changes before the D’backs created space late in the match and appeared they’d force a fourth set.
Down five at 21-16, the Cougars rallied on two Union Mine miscues, Miller’s tap, Combrink’s block and more D’back errors. The visitors retook the lead on back-to-back kills from Russell but Morgan answered for El Dorado to tie the score.
Serving for the win, a Union Mine serve found the net. After a missed hit and violation, the que was given for Freddy Mercury to sing his inspirational hit song.
“It feels awesome to win league and the huge win against (Union Mine) is a great way to end the regular season,” Ehly said.