REEDLEY – Execution played all the difference in Monday night’s Tri-County Conference cross division volleyball matchup between city rivals Immanuel and Reedley high schools.
The Sequoia Division-leading Eagles (19-12, 4-0) parlayed pinpoint serving, steady defense and strong net play to deliver an efficient 25-16, 25-23 and 25-16 sweep of the Kings Canyon division Pirates (16-14, 1-3) at Immanuel High South Gym. The Eagles had come off a three-set sweep of Washington Union on Sept. 28 to take over sole possession of first place in the Sequoia.
Immanuel coach Alyssa DenHartog said the aggressive serving attack of her team set the tone for the night against Reedley.
“I think it made a huge difference,” she said. “We put them out of position, and what they had to send over wasn’t their most aggressive attack, which helped us defensively and then we took it back at them offensively.”
Veteran Reedley coach Ken Tatami said the execution errors were a natural progression of key lineup changes on the floor.
“We just got our setter (sophomore Bethany Andres) back after three weeks,” he said. “We’ve been out of sync for about two to three weeks. So we’re still trying to find it.”
The Eagles’ serving game, in particular senior outside hitter Julieana Fino, took full advantage in the soft spots on the floor. Pino had four aces during a first-set rally that brought Immanuel from deficit into the lead, and she later added more aces during a five-point run as the hosts took the lead to pull out a close second set win.
Immanuel then exhibited solid play at the net behind sophomore hitters Spencer Horn, Addison Efird and Tori Visser. All turned in big hits during the night, and Fino slammed the winning point to close out the second set, the closest of the match.
Reedley trailed 23-16 in that set, but put on its best stretch of play as senior middle blocker Melissa Meza delivered a five-point service run following a side out featuring an ace. Sophomore outside hitter Jamilah Taylor delivered a strong kill from the left wing, and it suddenly was 23-22.
The Eagles finally gained side out, and after Jocelyn Fonseca’s tip kill brought Reedley back within a point Fino’s kill closed out thet set. Both teams battled evenly in set three to a 12-all tie before Immanuel won nine of the next 11 points featuring strong serving by senior Ava Regier and hitting from Horn.
Two Reedley hitting errors followed by a Horn kill made it 24-15, and after a sideout Efird delivered the match-ending point off a Pirates block attempt.
DenHartog felt a good tournament season against fellow Division IV and V teams along with higher division squads has prepared her team for a strong push to the postseason. The immediate goal is to finish off a TCC Sequoia Division championship run.
“I want to win out. We’ve got five more until the playoffs, and I want to win them all,” she said. The Eagles are at Selma on Oct. 4 before hosting Kerman on Tuesday, Oct. 10.
Tatami, meanwhile, is looking to use valuable practice time and remaining matches to get his team more game experience.
“We’re trying to find it and we’re so young,” he said. “There were points in time when you look out on the court where the only senior I had was our libero (Ashlee Chavez). You take your lumps when you’re that young.”
The Pirates have upcoming matches at Kingsburg (Oct. 4) and home against Central Valley Christian (Tuesday, Oct. 10).