DINUBA – The West Yosemite League volleyball season has been a rough ride for Dinuba High, but on Tuesday night the Emperors built up some momentum for the upcoming postseason.
Led by senior co-captains Mari Lopez and McKenzie Corcoran, the Emperors (11-16, 2-7) steadily took control each set to sweep last-place Tulare Union by scores of 25-13, 25-15 and 25-16 at DHS gym. It completed a season sweep of the Tribe in WYL action, and also eased some of the sting of recent five-set league losses to first place Tulare Western and Hanford.
“Because of not getting those wins, we rolled over against Lemoore and lost our confidence,” coach Sonny Perez said. “We went to Stockton (for the Oct. 7 Stockton Classic) and did phenomenal (a 3-1 record).”
Dinuba turned in an improved defensive performance against Tulare (8-21), cleaning up in an area that has hurt the team much of the season. On this night, Dinuba was able to close up holes on the floor, creating prolonged rallies that resulted in hitting and setting errors by the visitors.
An eight-point service run by Natalie Carranza helped Dinuba build a 17-9 lead in the first set, but the Tribe closed within 20-15 and 22-17 before Corcoran collected a right wing kill and Tulare committed a pair of errors to end the set.
In the second set, pinpoint serving (featuring a pair of aces) by Emma Rico and a kill by Kayla Serrano built a quick 8-0 Dinuba lead, and then the defense tightened its performance after a strong service run by Tulare’s Destiny Velasco reduced the deficit to 9-8. Some great digs and Carranza’s serving spurred a 5-0 run capped by a Lopez kill.
Corcoran’s service run and a Lopez kill built the lead to 19-11, and service runs by Lopez and Rico finished out the set. Dinuba had to fight from behind in set three, trailing 6-0 and 8-3 before surging back within 8-7 on the serving of Ashlee Orozco and a block by Lopez.
Dinuba took the lead for good at 10-9 on a kill from Cambria Alderete, and kills by Serrano and Mia Lopez supporting a 7-0 service run from Mari Lopez to make it 15-9. Kaylee Leal then delivered three aces to pad the lead, and kills from Mia Lopez and Orozco brought it to match point. The two veterans then closed it out as Corcoran gave a pinpoint set to Mari Lopez for the clinching kills.
Dinuba closes the regular season on Thursday, Oct. 19 with a road match at second place Mission Oak in Tulare. On Saturday, Oct. 21, the Emperors found out their placement – including division – for the Central Section playoffs that begin on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
“Our base (division) is three, last year we competed in Division II. This year, we didn’t do so well so we’re probably going to four,” Perez said. “I talked to the kids and they’re pretty pumped about the playoffs. I told them that it’s okay, everything from the league washes away and it’s a new season.”
Tulare closes out its season at city rival Tulare Western on Thursday, Oct. 19. The Tribe’s last victory came in a home match sweep of Summer Charter Collegiate Academy on Sept. 23.