Mountain Volleyball is alive, well, and dominant.
Sierra High School took home the 2015 Central Section D-IV Volleyball title last Saturday at West Hills College in Lemoore. It was the first sectional title for Sierra Volleyball since 1999. Sierra ended the season 32-3 overall. Sierra moves on to the CIF Southern California Regional where the Chieftains will travel to face Alta Loma High of Rancho Cucamonga.
Unfortunately Sierra’s win came at the expense of Minarets. The Mustangs were seeking their third section title in their short history. Minarets won two at the D-V level (2012 & 2013) and got moved up to D-IV this year.
Minarets lost in a five-game thriller. As heartbreaking as it was Coach Jessica Carter continues building an already elite program. The Mustangs were 30-5 in 2015.
YHS made a solid run in the D-III playoffs as well. The Badgers were seeded No. 3 (30-11 overall), and after dispatching Reedley at home on Nov. 12, the Badgers took the long road trip to Tulare where they lost to No. 2 seed Mission Oak. Mission Oak would lose to No. 1 seed Bakersfield Christian in the D-III title game.
The three Mountain Area high schools were regularly ranked in the Fresno Bee’s top three in their divisions, and were seeded accordingly in the Central Section divisional playoffs. Talk about dominance, the combined records of the three teams this season was 92-19 (80% winning percentage).
There is very little that separates all three programs. Sierra, Minarets, and YHS each played each other in 2015. All matches played between the three teams this season went to five games, and were intense. All three teams do more with less. Minarets (276), Sierra (587), and Yosemite (698) routinely play and beat schools with much larger enrollments.
Based on enrollment, Yosemite should be in D-IV or even D-V. Badger CIF opponents Reedley (1,903) and Mission Oak (1,516) are much larger schools. Yosemite volleyball plays in D-III due to the program’s past successes. When a school wins in this section it loses, because the Central Section feels it is rewarding winning programs by moving them up to bigger divisions in order to promote competitive equity. So don’t be surprised to see Sierra get moved to D-III despite its declining enrollment.
Badger head coach Michele Chenowith has put the volleyball program back to its former elite status. No sports program at YHS has won more CIF titles (eight) than Badger volleyball. Chenowith’s teams garnered a few of those. The future also looks bright. Congratulations to JV head coach Tricia Ruiz and Badger JV volleyball after going undefeated (10-0) in NSL play.
I got to attend the YHS vs. Sierra NSL championship volleyball game in Tollhouse Nov. 5. The atmosphere was electric on Sierra’s Senior Night. I’ve never been to a more intense match. Badger parents, family, and students energized the Badger volleyball team. Sierra’s gym is the smallest in the North Sequoia League but its’ easily the loudest.
The Badgers took Sierra to five games. There was no quit for Badger volleyball. In both the JV and varsity games, both teams left it on the court. I can’t count how many players hit the floor diving for a dig. It was serious hustle.
Congratulations to Sierra. The Chieftains played without their head coach Amanda Lopez-Thompson who had a family emergency and missed the YHS match. Despite her absence, the Chieftain players gave it all on senior night. Jordan Falk, one of the best volleyball players in the section had 25 kills and 23 digs.
I mostly cover football and basketball for the Star. Sorry to fans of either sport, but nothing matches the fan intensity of volleyball in the mountains. If you missed going to a game, then ink it in your calendar for next year. You won’t be disappointed.
I can’t say enough about to all the parents, coaches, and players for your continued commitment to the success of all Mountain Area volleyball programs. Each one is elite and should be for years to come.