HANFORD — Hanford West’s Shelby Perez knows how to finish.
Perez put the exclamation point on a grueling five-set victory (25-19, 26-28, 25-22, 16-25, 15-6) over Golden West. It was also the second time she had put an end to a set in the match. Perez, a junior, finished off the third set as well with a perfectly placed ace.
“I think it was a good challenge for us and it’s going to help us for the upcoming season with the rest of our league,” Perez said. “It pushed us.”
Hanford West (15-1, 2-1 WYL) edged out Golden West 15-6 in the final set and defended home court, 3-2, in a match that saw the Huskies go the distance for the first time this season.
“I’m very proud of them taking it to five games,” Hanford West coach Julie Coelho said. “We haven’t’ been pushed this far. I think [the team] showed their confidence. They wanted to protect our house and we did just that.”
Early on, the Huskies looked like they might cruise in three sets, like they have so often this year, especially after taking a 7-1 lead in the first set.
But the Golden Bears (8-5, 1-2 WYL) responded with a 4-0 run after a timeout and knotted the score at 12. The teams stayed within a point of each other until Hanford West took a 19-16 lead. From there, they ended the first set on a 6-3 run to take a 1-0 lead.
Golden West would not be outdone and took their first lead of the match when they led 2-1 in the second set. It was a one-point affair until the Golden Bears took a 10-8 lead. They eventually led 17-13 before Hanford West ripped off seven straight points to take a 20-17 lead.
Hanford West had two set points (25-24, 26-25), but Golden West spoiled both opportunities and outside hitter Kendall Johnson finished a 3-0 run to swipe the second set.
“We just needed to find our confidence and push through and I think we ended up finding that in the third,” Perez said. “We just need to learn to push through at the end when it’s the toughest part of the game.”
The third set was more of the same story with a close start, but Golden West pulled ahead with a 6-0 run forcing Hanford West to call a timeout. The Huskies put themselves in the situation with miscommunication and poor defense.
But of course, they’re the Huskies. They never stop battling. They battled all the way back to trail 20-19 before Golden West took their own timeout. And as Hanford West trailed 22-21, they did what Golden West did previously and stole the third set with a 4-0 run. Perez’s ace sealed the deal.
“Seams,” Perez said about her set-winner. “Just look for the seams.”
The fourth set was all Golden Bears. The only time they trailed in the set was when it was 1-0, but after that they did not look back. Hanford West tried to mount a comeback and went on a 4-0 run to cut the lead to 13-0, but a serve into the net killed all momentum.
Golden West would lead 19-11 — their largest lead of the match up to that point — and finished with a 5-0 run to win with a resounding nine-point advantage.
“We were just worn out,” Sousa said. “We haven’t been in five games so I think we were just tired, but we were able to pull through.”
It all came down to the fifth set.
“I told them, ‘We’ve been challenged to take it to a fifth set. It’s not a time to back down. It’s time to play with some confidence and compete,” Coelho said. “This is what the sport’s about and they showed up.”
Hanford West came out of the break and were, well, Hanford West. The first point went to Golden West, but the next five went to the Huskies. And it was all Huskies after that.
The Golden Bears cut it to a two-point lead (5-3), but Hanford West was too strong. They took 10 of the next 13 points — including a 4-0 run to end the match — and Perez’s kill ended the match.
Perez and Madison Sousa were a one-two punch for the Huskies Tuesday night as they led their team with 16 kills apiece. Perez added six aces and seven digs. Sousa had one ace, a block and 20 digs.
Hanford West will travel on the road to face rival Hanford (0-8, 0-2 WYL) on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Golden West also goes on the road to take on Monache (11-4) at 6:30 p.m.