After losing to Sierra last year in the Central Section D-IV championship game, the Minarets girls volleyball team, including eight experienced seniors, vowed to remain focused throughout this season.
They did, and were rewarded Nov. 12 with the CIF Central Section D-IV title by beating Sierra in three straight sets at West Hills Community College in Lemoore (25-22, 25-21, 25-22).
The Mustangs, seeded No. 4, pulled off two upsets, beating the No. 1 seed Liberty and No. 2 seed Sierra for the school’s second sectional title.
It started last season, as the Chieftains beat the Mustangs in the section title game. Last year’s Mustang team finished 30-5, winning their second second West Sequoia League title in as many years with Head Coach Jessica Carter, but falling short of their season goal.
This year it was the Mustangs’ (28-7, 10-0 WSL) turn to hoist the championship plaque after avenging last year’s loss.
“Our win felt so good,” Carter said after the match. “This team worked so hard this entire season, they have grown and learned both mentally and physically. To come out with the win was nothing short of amazing.”
It was the first sectional title for Carter since replacing Karra Zamora, now the Mustangs Athletic Director.
This year, after losing at Sierra on Sept. 17, the Mustangs went on to win 10 matches, going 22-2 before losing another match. The team finished 24-7, getting better each game and rolling off another seven-game win streak on its way to the WSL title. The team looked well prepared for the playoffs.
The Mustangs played No. 13 Granite Hills in the first round on Nov. 1. The Mustangs made quick work of the Grizzlies in three sets to earn a quarterfinals game against Chowchilla, beating the Redskins 3-1 on Nov. 3.
In the Nov. 8 semifinals, the Mustangs played No. 1 seed Liberty Hawks (30-4, 6-3 NSL). The Hawks beat the Mustangs 3-2 earlier in the season. The Mustangs turned the table and beat the Hawks 3-1 this time around to earn a rematch of last year’s sectional title game against the Chieftains.
Sierra (27-5, 8-2 NSL) rolled off three wins against No. 15 Coalinga, No. 7 Dos Palos and No. 3 Taft to reach the championship game with the Mustangs.
The Mustangs’ well-balanced talent is evident in the game’s stats, with junior Julie Castleman recording 12 kills and seven digs, Mia Corippo contributing 10 kills and 13 digs, and Kristy Berry adding six kills, five digs and two blocks. Sophia Manning led the team in digs with 20 and Makinley Wright had 19 assists to go with her six digs.
Katie Low added three kills, 16 digs and two ace serves.
With the Central Section championship, the Mustangs advanced to the 16-team State Southern Section D-IV playoffs with a first round game against No. 6 seed Ontario Christian (20-6) on Wednesday. The Mustangs received the No. 11 seed. The winner of the game will play the winner of No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 14 Taft at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Sierra also advanced to the playoffs as the No. 13 seed, and played No. 4 Loma Linda Academy Wednesday. Should the Chieftains win its first round game they will play the winner of No. 5 El Capitan and No. 12 Pomona Catholic on Saturday, with home games decided according to seeding.
Wednesday game results were not available at press time. See sierrastar.com for results.
Another 16 teams are in the Northern Section D-IV playoffs. The state championship game will be played Dec. 3. The complete state playoff brackets can be seen at maxpreps.com.