HANFORD — The Golden Bears wasted no time advancing to the next round as they swept the Ravens 3-0 in the CIF Central Section Division IV quarterfinals at Sierra Pacific High School on Tuesday.
“I actually think our defense had to step up a little bit,” Sierra Pacific coach Julie Coelho said. “They had some hitters, we were challenged defensively, so we went off our passing.”
With the victory, Sierra Pacific (32-6, 12-0 ESL) reaches the semifinals for a third year in a row. It was also the third consecutive year they met California City (22-12-1, 8-4 HDL) in the playoffs.
The first meeting in 2017 resulted in a 3-1 loss in the Division V championship game. In 2018, Sierra Pacific got revenge with a 3-0 win in the quarterfinals and now history has repeated itself.
The top-seeded Golden Bears didn’t seem to labor in their sweep of the 8-seeded Ravens winning 25-12, 25-14, 25-19. Not only did they hold the Ravens to under 20 points in each set, but they haven’t conceded 20 points in any set of their first two playoff matches.
“No matter what position you are you have to be able to sacrifice,” Coelho said. “Defense is an attitude so you just have to be willing to go after it.”
Sierra Pacific was led by freshmen Jordan Keeling and Ashlan VanGronigen on Tuesday night. VanGronigen had a team-high 11 kills, while Keeling added 10 kills and three aces. The pair of outside hitters helped set the pace on offense and go on extended runs throughout the match.
“Jordan just came through for us tonight,” Coelho said. “But it was a team win all the way around. Each game we’re just going out there, controlling our side of the court and playing our game. If we play our game, we should be good.”
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Morgan Reese also had 10 kills for the Golden Bears and Olivia Fagundes added six more. Kylie Brasil had a team-high 15 assists off the bench and Amie Walker finished with 13 assists, five digs and four aces. Libero Klarissa Solorio had a team-high 17 digs.
The Golden Bears quickly led 6-1 in the first set, including a 5-0 start to the match. They eventually led 16-11 before closing on a 9-1 run to take a 1-0 lead. The second set was more of the same.
Sierra Pacific built an early lead (8-2) with crisp passes and strong kills, while California City’s inability to return the ball and unforced errors put them in a hole. Leading 17-14, the Golden Bears once again finished strong with an 8-0 run culminating in VanGronigen’s ace to take a two-set lead.
“We would try to keep a positive attitude whenever one of us would get down or mad at ourselves,” Keeling said. “We would try and cheer each other up and we try and keep the energy going.”
The Ravens actually struck first in the third set and led 3-0 and 5-4. It was the only time the Golden Bears trailed in the entire match.
The Golden Bears eventually tied and took the lead with a 10-2 run before the Ravens went on a 5-0 run — their largest of the night — and brought the set to within one point (20-19). But behind their home crowd and their stellar defense, the Golden Bears ended the match on a 5-0 run. Brasil provided the set and VanGronigen the powerful game-winning kill near the sideline.
“With defense, it can be hard sometimes, but you just have to be ready for everything,” Keeling said. “You have to just try your best to get every ball.”
Sierra Pacific will host No. 4 seed Minarets (27-10, 12-0 WSL) on Thursday at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. Minarets defeated No. 5 seed Washington Union 3-0.