VISALIA - Selma’s pursuit of a Valley championship ended after the Bears fell to Washington Union 3-1 on Nov.3 in the CIF Central Section Division V championship at the Porter Field House at College of the Sequoias.
The game was nothing short of competitive, with two teams playing for its first Valley title in program history.
The first three sets were won within two points and the scores were 25-27, 22-25, 25-23, 25-18.
Even though both teams made several errors throughout the game, Selma head coach Montana Lowe said the margin of error was slim.
“Most of their points were either off our errors. They had one really good player No. 9 [Sydney Kuma] on their team,” Lowe said. “Most of our points came from their errors.”
The championship loss ended a playoff run for the Bears, who entered the Division V playoffs as the No. 14 seed. En route to the title game against the top-seeded Washington Union, Selma upset the No. 3, No. 6, and No. 2 seeds in that order. In its postseason wins, the Bears went 9-0 in sets played.
Selma’s regular season ended at 9-23 overall and 0-12 in Central Sequoia League play.
Players on the team were proud of each other and many of the them said they had doubters who did not think that they would advance to the title game.
Some of the team’s players said they wanted to prove their doubters wrong.
“We had a lot of doubters, but we all trusted each other to get this far,” setter Mia Salinas said. “We just couldn’t finish. Washington Union is a great team, so it comes down who wanted it more.”
“I just think we wanted to prove everybody wrong that we could do it,” outsider hitter Clarissa Moreno said.
“We just want to say thank you to all those who did support,” libero Genesis Rodriguez said. “And for those who didn’t, it’s ok, we’re proving people wrong.”
Outside hitter and three-year varsity player Khori Cranford said this season’s team was the best one she played on.
“I’m really proud of our girls and what we did all season and what we did here tonight,” Khori Cranford said. “Obviously, I wished it would’ve gone different, but I’m proud of what we’ve been doing.”
Going into the playoffs, Lowe said she felt her team was underestimated because its record.
“I honestly believe we should’ve been the two or three seed regardless of our league record,” Lowe said. “I think next year, people need to not look at the record, they need to look at who were playing, how close we were playing them.”
“I’m hoping next year, based on how we perform this year, we could get some recognition and hopefully get a home playoff game.”
In the first set, the score had eight lead changes and seven ties. Selma had leads of 6-1 and 8-4 to begin the game and the Bears largest lead of the set was five points. Selma had two five point leads at 19-14 and 22-17 before Washington Union rallied back to tie the set 22-22.
Both teams traded points until a 25-25 tie, which followed Washington Union scoring twice to seal the 27-25 set victory.
In the second set, Selma had a 14-11 lead, but several errors from the Bears helped the Panthers put together a rally for a 9-1 run. After that rally, the Bears trailed 20-15.
Washington Union extended its lead to 24-19, but the Bears didn’t go away that easy. Selma cut its deficit 24-22, but the Panthers eventually earned the match point to sealed another set win.
The third set featured three lead changes and Selma was on the brink of losing the game trailing 22-19. The Bears wouldn’t go away again, tying the score 23-23. Selma went ahead 24-23 and a kill by Gurleen Brar sealed a
25-23 victory to force a fourth set.
“In that third set, we really kind of saw them reach their full potential,” Lowe said. “But by that time, it was kind of too late.”
The fourth set would be the toughest for Selma, who trailed Washington Union throughout the entire set. The Panthers didn’t look back after a 7-1 start. The closest the Bears came within Washington Union was four points, which was a 15-11 lead for the Panthers.
After leads of 20-14 and 23-16, Washington Union eventually put Selma away, winning 25-18 to seal the 3-1 victory.
Even though the Bears fell short of the program’s first Valley title, Selma qualified to compete in the CIF State playoffs. The Bears enter the CIF State Division V playoffs as the No. 9 seed.
In the first round of the state playoffs, Selma traveled Los Angeles County to face No. 8-seeded La Puente High School in the Southern Regional bracket on Nov. 6 (after press time).
“Going forward, we could make a good run regardless of where were ranked,” Lowe said before the opening round game. “I think teams are going to look at our record still and underestimate us. I don’t know how state rankings work, but I think we could come out strong wherever we play.”
It was the first time in program history that the Bears competed in the CIF State playoffs.