HANFORD — Hanford would not be denied on Senior Night as they defended home court and won a thrilling four-set match in the West Yosemite League season finale against rival Lemoore on Thursday.
After being swept by the Tigers in their first matchup on Oct. 1, the Bullpups put together one of their best matches of the season and won 3-1 (26-28, 25-16, 25-23, 25-15).
“This is one of our best matches the entire season,” Hanford’s Lauren Scheidt said. “It was really stressful, but we came through in the end and Lemoore is one of our biggest rivals, it was really great to beat them 3-1.”
After trading the first two sets, momentum hung on the third set. The Bullpups (10-15, 3-7 WYL) led early and throughout the third eventually building a 14-6 lead.
The Tigers (10-14, 3-7 WYL) used a 6-0 run to close the gap to two points and then a 7-1 run to take a 19-16 lead. Just when it looked like the Tigers were going to steal another set — like they did in the first — the Bullpups took charge.
A 6-0 run, including some powerful spikes by sophomore Druegan Davis, gave the Bullpups a 22-19 lead. Then tied 23-23 and with Davis serving, the Bullpups eked out the last two points for the 2-1 lead.
“It was just our fight and our drive to push through in every game,” Scheidt said.
Hanford road the wave of momentum into the fourth set and quickly recovered after trailing 2-0 to start the set. The Bullpups eventually led 10-5 and 20-10 after a 6-2 run. The Tigers struggled to recover and scored consecutive points on only three occasions in the deciding set.
“I think Hanford just wanted it more,” Lemoore coach Valarie Burkett said. “They came out, it was their Senior Night, they wanted to battle and that’s what they did.”
The Bullpups’ key to victory was their lightning-fast starts. Focused and ready at the start of each serve, they jumped out to strong starts in every set on Thursday.
Hanford led 9-3 in the first set, 9-2 in the second, 8-1 in the third and 6-3 in the fourth. It was crucial against the scrappy Tigers, who refused to go away throughout the match.
“We just really wanted to win and we did the best to our ability to do that,” Davis said.
The Bullpups got the home crowd going early by starting the match with an 8-0 run to take that 9-3 lead. They built it to a 20-10 lead before the Tigers began their comeback.
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The Tigers got help from Madelynn Kelley energizing kills and Tierra Chambers’ well-placed sets. A 4-0 burst followed by five consecutive points brought the Tigers to within a point (21-20).
Lemoore took a 24-22 lead with another 4-0 run but Hanford answered back this time. The two teams tied at 25 after Kelly’s spike. The Bullpups then took a one-point lead, but Lemoore reeled off three points in a row culminating in Mariana Rojas’ kill to win the first set.
“Volleyball’s a game of momentum and the first set we caught momentum,” Burkett said. “The rest of the games we couldn’t catch it. Between missed serves, missed hits, we just couldn’t catch any momentum.”
But there was no panic in the Bullpups. They grabbed the lead early in the second set and held on throughout only trailing when it was 1-0. Davis powered the team to a 21-13 lead before her quick pass over the net sealed the win and tied the match 1-1.
“We just cleared our mindset and just worked together as much as we could,” Davis said. “They got the lead, so we just pushed back.”
Davis was a catalyst for the Bullpups. Her momentum-changing kills and blocks spurred the Bullpups in multiple moments. And when given the opportunity at the net, she consistently finished with her powerful arm.
Before the match, Hanford honored its seven seniors during Senior Night. They included: Victoria Medeiros, Jolie Yang, Jessica Romero, Melissa Hernandez, Belle Perez, Haley Dutra and Scheidt.
Although the match didn’t mean anything in the way of postseason hopes — since both teams entered the match having already missed the playoffs — Hanford and Lemoore still played like it meant everything.
“I was saying the entire day, ‘We need to win tonight. We need to win tonight,’” Scheidt said. “Just seeing the score on the board just got us so excited and pumped to push harder and harder to win.”
As a result, Hanford finishes the season with double-digit wins for the first time since 2014. And after finishing last or tied for last in the West Yosemite League for seven seasons in a row, the Bullpups end tied for fourth with the Tigers.
Lemoore will lose only three seniors while returning a combined four freshmen and sophomores, and seven juniors. The team was rebuilding after losing 10 seniors the previous year. Still, they managed to come just four matches from being .500 on the season.
“We’re young and it was a rebuilding year for us,” Burkett said. “It’ll be nice to see how we bounce back with a lot of returners for next year.”