KINGSBURG – There were wild swings of momentum and emotion Thursday night near the end of Kingsburg High’s season-ending 3-1 loss to Immanuel.
The setback ended an impressive late-season run for the Vikings, who made it to the Central Section Division IV semifinals before faltering. The scores were 21-25, 27-25, 25-23, 26-24.
“I really wish we won,” Viking junior setter Kassidy Wilson said. “It was a huge deal playing Immanuel. We played them twice in league, losing one and winning one, so we didn’t know what to expect. We just played our hearts out."
Immanuel (17-13), seeded fifth, won two of the first three sets and led top-seeded Kingsburg 23-20 in Set 4 and seemed poised to end it. Then Kingsburg sprang to life, getting a kill by senior outside hitter Karen Rodriguez, an error by Immanuel, a kill from Jennah Torres and another point from Jessi Swenning to earn set point. Swenning excelled all match for the Vikings.
The Viking gymnasium, quiet for too long, buzzed; but Immanuel seized the momentum right back. A Kingsburg error, a kill by Immanuel junior star Danielle Jefferies and an ace by Jefferies ended the match — and the season 0 — for the Vikings.
As Jefferies' laser serve bit the back line, Kingsburg junior middle blocker Swenning bent at the waist as if punched in the gut. One of her teammates crouched in momentary despair. The Immanuel players rejoiced before their thoughts eventually turned to the Nov. 11 finals at College of the Sequoias against No. 2 Liberty.
It was a difficult loss for Kingsburg, which thought it had the winning Set 4 point when it led 24-23, only to have a potential kill by Swenning called out. The Vikings thought the ball grazed the finger of an Immanuel player.
Rodriguez was teary-eyed after emerging from a post-match address with coach David Light.
“I just feel like if we had better line judges and refs it would have been a difficult outcome," she said. "I definitely felt like they weren’t fair toward a lot of stuff that happened tonight, but I mean it’s over, so …”
Light was philosophical overall, but also thought Kingsburg got a raw deal when Swenning's potential kill was called out.
“We thought the ball was touched by the middle hitter,” he said. “Our girl put it away and we thought there was a touch on the ball and we thought (the refs) missed it. We think it happened several times, but it’s what the ref sees (that counts).”
Light is an even-tempered guy and he soothed the Vikings as much as possible in a closed-door chat after the match.
“I just told them there’s always another mountain to climb and this isn’t the end, and that the sun will rise tomorrow and all of the things you say when you have a loss like that," he said. "It hurts for 15 minutes. Grieve it for 15 minutes and then let it go because that’s all it really deserves.”
Relaxed and happy in a corner of the gym 10 minutes after the match was Jefferies, the 5-10 leaper who bedeviled Kingsburg with 15 kills and five aces.
“Believing that we could do it and making sure that we had our mental game high helped us,” she said. “We made sure we didn’t fall into a pit.”
Asked what her vertical leap is, Jefferies answered matter-of-factly, “I don’t know, but it’s up there.”
The Eagle star, whose brother Chris played pro basketball, said Rodriguez for Kingsburg was difficult to stop.
“She’s a smart player and she knows where to put the ball,” Jefferies said.
Kingsburg (24-10) was equally impressed with Jefferies, who is not committed to a four-year college but should be eventually.
“She’s amazing,” Wilson said. “It’s just kind of funny because we have the same birthday. She’s an amazing player and an amazing outside hitter.”
Both Jefferies and Wilson, coincidentally, were born on Sept. 11, 2001, the day of the notorious terrorist attacks on the East Coast which killed nearly 3,000 and injured another 6,000.
Rodriguez led Kingsburg with 13 kills, Torres had eight, Kaitlyn Freeman five and Wilson, Olivia Doyle and Swenning four apiece.
Wilson also had two aces, 15 digs and 15 assists. Torres contributed 22 digs for the Vikings and Kate Jackson had 10, while Morgan Johnson chipped in with 16 assists.
Asked about the season in general, Wilson said, “I think it was just great. We weren’t just a team, we were a family. We loved playing with each other and it wasn’t for our own self-glory, it was for the team as a whole. I think we had a really successful season.”