STOCKTON — The Ponderosa High volleyball team’s hopes for a Thursday date at UC Davis to play for the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I championship ended Tuesday night in Stockton.
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Facing second-ranked St. Mary’s in the semifinal round, the Bruins struggled against the defense-minded Rams and added to their woes with unforced errors, miscommunication, and at times, lackluster play. Ponderosa never held even a one-point lead through all three games.
While St. Mary’s didn’t appear that much stronger and gave away its share of points, the Rams did a better job of recovering from their mistakes and got a boost from playing on their home court. Aside from a hard-fought second game, St. Mary’s rolled over the Bruins 25-15, 25-22, 25-12.
“They fought hard in the first two games but then they let a couple of calls get in their heads,” Bruin coach Sheri Millhollin said. “St. Mary’s was more consistent than we were — inconsistency has been our problem all year.
“They had the home-court advantage and we had to travel a long way. I’d like to replay the game, I know we could beat them but of course we can’t.”
After St. Mary’s jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first game, the Bruins rallied, pulling within two several times but never quite catching the Stockton team. Lianna Sybeldon’s dig and Sara Hickenbottom’s kill put the first Ponderosa point on the board, Alex Rader made it 5-3 with her kill and Madison Macauley’s set to Sybeldon for a smashing kill forced a sideout.
Momentum shifted midway through as the Rams began pulling away and gained some breathing room. But the Bruins stepped up and with two Hickenbottom blocks and Macauley’s tip on one series, followed by another Hickenbottom block and Samantha Rains’ cross-court kill, Ponderosa had closed the gap to 16-14.
After St. Mary’s answered with two points, Hickenbottom’s in-your-face kill returned serve to Ponderosa. But a Ram kill sent Elizabeth Hoover to the line and she ran off seven straight points to end the first set.
Ponderosa showed more fight in the second game. After falling behind by seven points, 19-12, the Bruins chipped away at the Rams with Hailey Bellmer’s kill, a combo block from Rains and Sybledon and two more Sybeldon blocks to get within two. St. Mary’s went back up by two on a floating ace but a great dig from Pamina Chong and Sybeldon’s kill sent Sybeldon into serve. With her ace and a St. Mary’s pass into the net, the Bruins were again within two but couldn’t finish.
The Bruins scored two more Bruin points on Macauley’s tip and a Ram miss before St. Mary’s put the game away.
Nothing went right for Ponderosa in the third game as the match and the Bruins’ season quickly came to an end behind a barrage of points from St. Mary’s.
It was the last varsity match for seniors Bayley Blackney, Rachel Eisen, Macauley and captains Rains and Hickenbottom, who led the Bruins to a share of second place in the Delta River League with a 7-3 record and were 21-14 overall.