VISALIA — Sierra Pacific couldn’t overcome a talented Kingsburg squad in the CIF Central Section Division IV championship on Saturday and lost 3-0 to finish as the runner-up.
“Our youth showed,” Sierra Pacific coach Julie Coelho said. “It just looked like we were a little nervous, our game wasn’t there, but we got second. A definite goal for next year, their senior year they’ll be hungry.”
Top-seed Sierra Pacific (33-7, 12-0 ESL) lost 25-17, 25-8, 25-17 and struggled mightily in the final two sets of the match. No. 2 seed height and blocking ability left the Golden Bears without an answer on offense and scrambling on defense for most of the match.
“We were just constantly playing defense, we couldn’t put a ball away against this size team,” Coelho said. “They just kind of outpowered us and it showed. They deserved it.”
It’s their second runner-up finish in three seasons after falling short in the Division V championship in 2017. The loss snapped the Golden Bear’s 11-match winning streak and marked the first time this season the team was swept in a five-set match.
The Division-IV match was first up on the slate of volleyball championships held at College of the Sequoias Porter Field House. Divisions V, III, II and I were to follow.
The first set appeared to be a glimpse of a competitive match ahead, but it turned out to be the only competitive set. The Vikings took an early 7-3 lead before the Golden Bears trimmed the deficit to two points.
“We were able to put it down and get around the block and to be able to push through it,” Sierra Pacific’s Amie Walker said about the early offense.
The Golden Bears continued to trail throughout the set scoring consecutive points only three times. Sierra Pacific’s Jordan Keeling’s and Ashlan VanGronigen’s back-to-back kills made it 12-9, but the Vikings continued to make the big plays.
The two teams matched each other with 3-0 runs, but Kingsburg — leading 20-17 — closed the set on a 5-0 run.
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“We weren’t executing the ball,” Keeling said. “For defense, we weren’t on our toes, we weren’t ready and I feel like the energy was down.”
The Vikings’ Allyson Cotton with her 6-foot-1-inch frame and Cambria Brandon at 5-foot-10-inches presented problems at the front of the net for the Golden Bears. They were unable to work around Cotton’s block in the second and third sets, while Brandon’s spike was efficient.
“It just shut down our hitters and I think they got nervous and they started tipping and not being able to put a ball down,” Sierra Pacific’s Amie Walker said about the block.
Keeling shared Walker’s sentiment saying, “I feel like it just snuck up on us because we’re not used to having a good team to block.”
The Golden Bears had no answer for it in the second set as they fell behind 6-0 to start and never got closer than three points. The Vikings used a 10-0 run to take a 20-5 lead and eventually a 2-0 lead in the match.
“I think it got in our head mentally and then we weren’t able to push it through it,” Walker said.
Sierra Pacific scored the first point of the third set for their first lead of the entire match. The set teetered back-and-forth until a 4-0 run by the Vikings gave them the lead for good.
“I’m really proud of the girls,” Coelho said. “They worked hard all season. I know they really wanted it. It hopefully leaves them hungry for next year. That’s what we’ll be working towards.”
Even with the loss, the Golden Bears will qualify for the state playoffs, which will be released on Sunday.