Porterville deals Dinuba’s first volleyball loss

Panthers height advantage at the net paired with strong defensive play a result in the dethroning of the Emperors with four-set non-league victory

Dinuba High’s Angelina Castellanos (3) tries to get a hit past Porterville High’s block wall of Ashlyn Lautenschlager (5) and Aliya Gibson (3) in the opening set of a non-league volleyball match on Aug. 29 in Dinuba. The visiting Panthers prevailed in four sets, winning the final by a 25-13 score. (Jon Earnest)
Dinuba High’s Angelina Castellanos (3) tries to get a hit past Porterville High’s block wall of Ashlyn Lautenschlager (5) and Aliya Gibson (3) in the opening set of a non-league volleyball match on Aug. 29 in Dinuba. The visiting Panthers prevailed in four sets, winning the final by a 25-13 score. (Jon Earnest)
Jon Earnest
Published August 30, 2023  • 
9:30 am

DINUBA – The Porterville High Panthers used their size advantage and an efficient defensive performance to pounce on the Dinuba High Emperors and net them their first volleyball loss of the season on Tuesday, Aug. 29.

The hitting attack trio of senior Dannielle Knight, junior Haiden Arbelo and 6-foot-1 sophomore Rylie Schoonover combined for 34 of the team’s 45 kills in a four-set victory at Dinuba High gym. Scores were 25-20, 16-25, 25-21 and 25-13 as the Panthers improved to 9-3 on the season.

Captains Knight and Arbelo peppered the Dinuba defense from both wings of the front side, each delivering 12 kills including the decisive hit by Knight to close out the match. Schoonover pitched in with 10 kills, and the spaced-out attack methodically broke down the Emperors’ defense

“I think we started a little bit slow, but we picked it up on the hitting side,” Panthers coach Lisa Davis said. “I thought we played really good defense tonight.”

Dinuba coach Sonny Perez, meanwhile, said his team is still trying to establish a regular at the libero position to replace the graduated Apple Martinez and her leadership on the floor. As the match wore on, the Emperors were forced into setting and passing areas as Porterville exploited holes on the floor.

Porterville High’s Ryleigh Schoonover (4) unleashes a kill between Dinuba High defenders Mari Lopez (6) and McKenzie Corcoran, left, during the Panthers’ four-set victory over the Emperors on Aug. 29. Sophomore Schoonover finished with 10 kills. (Jon Earnest)

Dinuba was playing from behind early, but rallied from a six-point hole in the first set to creep within 21-19 on McKenzie Corcoran’s service ace. The Panthers’ net dominance then took hold as an Ashlyn Lautenschlager dink was followed by an Arbelo kill. Emps’ senior Mari Lopez answered with a kill, but the visitors closed the set on kills by Kalia Mariboho and Arbelo.

Dinuba evened the match with its best performance of the evening, getting three kills from Lopez and service points from Braylin Almendarez. In set three, Porterville scored five unanswered points for a 14-10 lead before Dinuba rallied to tie the score at 21.  But two hitting errors put the Panthers ahead, and they closed the game with two kills from the wing.

Porterville High’s Natalie Rankin delivers a serve in the fourth set of the Panthers’ non-league volleyball victory at Dinuba High on Aug. 29. The junior finished the night with 10 of the team’s 18 service aces. (Jon Earnest)

Porterville controlled nearly all of the final set, taking the lead for good on Schoonover’s kill to break a 3-3 tie. The visitors pulled away late as senior co-captain Natalie Rankin shined during a seven-point service run (she finished with 10 ace serve winners).

Davis said the team started to jell in the recent Morro Bay tournament, going 3-3 with wins over Mission Oak, Morro Bay and Lemoore.

“I feel we’re right where we need to be right now,” she said. “There are some things we need to work on, as we all do, but the girls seem to really like each other and they’re working hard.”

Perez also looks for the Emperors to find their footing during preseason, with a tough road match scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 31 at Justin Garza High in Fresno. The team will then have a break until a Wednesday, Sept. 13 non-league home match against Selma High. 

The Stockton Classic, originally scheduled for Aug. 26 and one of the team’s tournaments, has been postponed until the first week of October because of scheduling issues.

Jon Earnest
Reporter