The Yosemite High School girls volleyball team won its ninth Central Section championship with a heart-stopping run through the playoffs.
No other Yosemite sports program has won so many, but it had been since 2004 that the volleyball program won a title. This one was special as the top-seeded Badgers were on the ropes twice but put it all together when it really mattered.
For the second straight season, YHS will be in the state playoffs. Yosemite earned the top seed in the Northern Regional of the state Division III playoffs and opened Tuesday night at home against Kelseyville. A win would bring the Badgers back to their home gym Thursday at 7 p.m. to face the winner of the No. 8 Presentation-San Jose/No. 9 Soquel match.
Regional playoffs continue Saturday at 6 p.m. and Nov 13 at 7 p.m. at home sites. The state finals are Nov. 16-17 (match times TBA) at Santiago Canyon College in Orange.
Regional ticket prices are $9, $5 for children/students with ASB cards/seniors.
Overcoming the odds
Against their nemesis Mission Oak at home Oct. 30, YHS was down 0-2 in sets in a best-of-five match. Mission Oak had won four previous matches with Yosemite. It seemed like the Hawks had the Badgers’ number. But Yosemite fought back and forced a fifth set, which goes to 15 versus 25 in other sets. Mission Oak built an 8-5 lead. The Badgers then put together a 7-0 run to win the set 15-10 and the match. Senior Chloe Duke was unstoppable in the comeback. Yosemite avenged a 2017 D-III section loss to Mission Oak where the Hawks defeated YHS 3-1.
The D-III title match at College of the Sequoias in Visalia on Saturday went down to the wire. And once again YHS was down in the fifth set, this time at match point 14-11. Once again, the Badgers dug deep. Senior Sayda Taylor took over at the end. YHS won the deciding set 17-15.
Despite the close calls, you didn’t see the team panic, a tone set by coach Michele Chenowith. The Badgers are a playoff-tested team and loaded with club players who compete in pressure-filled matches with top competition in the offseason. Many players on the team have played together for years. They have been in tough situations before. The team also was motivated to win a section title that they were so close to winning in 2017.
Chenowith 143-44 in last five years
Chenowith is 143-44 since taking over the YHS volleyball program for the second time in 2014. In Chenowith’s previous YHS stint from 1994 to 2002 she won three more section volleyball titles. Since Chenowith’s return the Badgers have 30 or more wins in three seasons. The Badgers have appeared in the playoffs every season since Chenowith took over.
On the road to the 2018 section title, the Badgers defeated teams from three schools with much higher student populations than YHS: Mission Oak (1,464), Delano (1,589) and Madera South (2,916). Woodlake is 632. The YHS student population is 648.
And how good was the North Sequoia League in volleyball? Chowchilla (a No. 3 seed) won the D-IV section title with a 3-2 victory over No. 4 seed Immanuel. Washington Union (No. 1 seed) took the D-V section title over No. 14 seed Selma. Yosemite defeated both going 10-0 in the NSL.
Yosemite d. Madera South 3-2 (22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 17-25, 17-15): Sayda Taylor 19 good receive, 17 digs, 27 kills,3 assists; Izzy Peter 17 good serve receive, 24 digs; Kaylee Smith 11 digs, 5 good receive; Chloe Duke 5 good receive, 6 digs,19 kills; Monique Ades 7 good receive, 3 blocks, 3 digs, 4 kills; Keylee Andersen 4 digs, 5 kills; Ava Greshman 8 digs; Jordyn Jackson 19 digs, 32 assists, 3 kills; Isabelle Magee 12 digs,14 assists; Madison Morris 5 digs, 4 kills.