It was pedal to the metal Thursday for the No. 1 seed Yosemite High volleyball team (32-4, 9-1 NSL) in the semi-final round of the CIF Central Section D-III playoffs, beating the No. 5 seed Sierra (15-12, 6-4 NSL) in three sets (25-20, 25-19, 25-16).
Before the largest (about 600) and loudest crowd of the season, Yosemite came out strong from the start with senior Tiffany Cacy ending the first set with an ace serve (25-20). In the second set, Yosemite jumped out to an 11-5 lead, and although Sierra tied the game at 14 each, it was a kill shot by senior Siena Oswald that ended the set (25-19).
Yosemite again got off to a quick start in the third set, going up 15-8 before a kill shot by senior Rachel Loveland ended the set and game with a kill shot (25-16) as the Badger faithful erupted into cheers and screams.
The Badgers played ferocious on offense and tough on defense all night, with few unforced errors.
Senior Karee Smith contributed 8 kills, with junior Chloe Duke and senior Savannah Bohna adding 6 each.
Senior Alli Ruiz had 13 digs and junior Jordyn Jackson had 10 assists.
For Coach Amanda Lopez, her Chieftains were lead by Tori Carlos who recorded 14 blocks, 10 kills, and 5 digs. Taylor Saar had 11 kills and 6 digs, and Jordan Harshman had 9 blocks.
The two teams split the two league games this season, with Sierra winning of Yosemite’s court, and Yosemite beating Sierra on its court in round two of league play.
Section title game Saturday
The win advances the Lady Badgers to the section championship game against Mission Oak of Tulare (32-8, 10-0), who advanced after beating the No. 3 seed Minarets (27-8, 10-0 WSL) in three sets Thursday night.
The championship game will be played at 3 p.m., Saturday, at the College of the Sequoias in Visalia.
It was Mission Oak that knocked Yosemite out of the semi-finals round last year in three sets.
After the game Cacy, who had a double-double night with 16 assists and 10 digs, said the team has never played as well as it did Thursday night.
“I want to beat Mission Oak soooo bad ... we are way ready for Saturday,” Cacy said.
Junior Sayda Taylor, who had 8 kills and 12 digs for the night, said the team was “really hyped-up for this game tonight, and we’re ready to carry that over into Saturday’s game against Mission Oak. They beat us last year, but we are bringing our A+ game Saturday.”
“If we just play our game, we’ll be OK,” said a more subdued Yosemite Coach Michele Chenowith.
Mission Oak’s offensive is lead by Christa Pilgrim and Samantha Arellano with 302 and 296 kills on the season.
Over the years, Yosemite has proven to have one of the premier volleyball programs in the Central Section. Since the 1978-79 season, the Lady Badgers have won 17 league titles , 8 co-titles, and 8 CIF Central Section Championships. The last time Yosemite won a section volleyball title was 12 years ago. Over the past three years, the team’s overall win-loss record is 96-20.
Going to the Central Section Championship game is nothing new to Coach Chenowith. Her teams won CIF Central Section D-III titles in 1997, 2000, and 2001.
No matter who wins Saturday, both teams will advance to the D-III state playoffs.