Sanger volleyball bounces back, rolls past Miners

Defending CMAC co-champion Apaches turn the tables with win against Visalia’s El Diamante two days after being swept in their home opener, play tourney on coast this weekend

Sanger High’s Sofia Aguilar (8) delivers a jump serve during match point of the Apaches’ three-set sweep of El Diamante on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Dean Nicholson Gym. Aguilar is one of two freshman on the varsity team this season. Sanger improved to 2-1 on the season with the victory. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published August 25, 2023  • 
1:10 pm

SANGER – The effects of a rough home opener didn’t last too long for the Sanger High volleyball team.

Two days after being swept by Division I power Clovis North, the Apaches rode the strength of a solid defensive performance and strong net play to quickly dispatch the visiting El Diamante High Miners on Aug. 24 at Dean Nicholson Gym. The sweep was capped by a stirring third set comeback, with Sanger trailing 21-16 before putting on a closing surge in a 26-24 clincher.

“The first one of the season always feels nice, especially coming back from a five-point deficit,” said coach Sierra LeBeau, whose squad shared the County Metro Athletic Conference championship with San Joaquin Memorial. “We really pushed through, our serving really helped us.”

Sanger High coach Sierra LeBeau gives directions to her team during a time out in the second set of the Apaches’ three-set sweep of El Diamante High on Thursday, Aug 24. The win came two nights after the team dropped its home opener in a three-set loss to Division I power Clovis North High. (Jon Earnest)

This helped especially down the stretch in the third set, when strong serving by seniors Annika Hassan and Morgan Bigham – along with freshman Sofia Aguilar – fueled the final rally. On match point, Aguilar delivered a deep serve that set up a left-side hit from the visitors that sailed wide.

It capped off a solid showing by the Apaches, who took charge early in the first two sets and went on to post 25-19 and 25-17 wins. Hassan and Macey McNab, both standing 5-feet-11, provided a solid wall at the net in hitting and blocking.

“I really only have two returning starters (Hassan and Bigham), so everyone else is kind of new,,” LeBeau said. “We have two freshmen (Aguilar and Samantha Guerra) playing, and they’re doing a really good job at stepping up to the plate.”

Sanger High’s Samantha Guerra (10) and Macey McNab (7) put up a double block challenge at the net of a hit attempt from El Diamante High’s Aubriana Huitt (9) during the first set of the Apaches’ 25-19, 25-17 and 26-24 sweep of the Miners on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Dean Nicholson Gym. (Jon Earnest)

Sanger showed steady defensive play through the evening with the back row, including junior libero Olivia LeBeau. Aguilar, normally a back row specialist, had playing time as an outside hitter and made some critical hits and points. El Diamante was unable to crack Sanger’s interior defense, as the Apaches made a number of impressive digs and passes.

Coach LeBeau said the team will use this weekend’s Morro Bay Tournament (the Apaches are defending champions) to gain valuable experience for the upcoming CMAC season. Also, “we play two (Tri-River Athletic Conference) teams, a couple of Bakersfield teams and a couple of more Visalia teams. That really makes us better,” she said.

The opening opponent in Morro Bay is a familiar one – Reedley High. The Apaches and Pirates square off at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, and matches run through Saturday, Aug, 26.

Sanger High players (from left) Ashley Robles (1), Sofia Aguilar (8), Macey McNab (7) and Morgan Bigham (3) celebrate a point during the second set of the Apaches’ sweep of El Diamante on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Dean Nicholson Gym. Sanger improved to 2-1 on the season with the victory. (Jon Earnest)

In other scores on Aug. 22, Sanger West (2-2) dropped a four-set match to Hanford by scores of 25-20, 25-18, 21-25, 25-18 in a battle of unbeatens. The next night, the Hornets dropped a four-set decision at home to Immanuel High (1-3), which lost in four sets at Exeter on the 22nd.

Parlier (0-2-1) had two matches  in the two-day Caruthers tournament on Aug. 23, splitting a pair of sets against Fowler High. The Panthers conclude tournament play on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Jon Earnest