REEDLEY – The upsets began early in the Central Section volleyball playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 22, with the Dinuba High Emperors pulling off one of the biggest in the Division IV bracket.
Seeded No. 14 entering the postseason, the Emps (12-17) shook off a first set loss with wins in the next two sets and eventually held on to stun No. 3 seed Immanuel High. Dinuba prevailed in the final set by a 15-13 score to dramatically end the Eagles’ 24-13 season that included the Tri-County Conference Sequoia Division championship.
“We played very well, and did what we had to do to beat them,” said Emps coach Sonny Perez, whose team tightened the floor defensively and got strong performances from senior co-captain Mariainez Lopez and McKenzie Corcoran. Dinuba earned a second round matchup in Visalia on Thursday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. against No. 11 seed Golden West (13-17), which knocked off No. 6 Caruthers in five sets.
Immanuel flexed its muscles in the opening set, pulling away for a 25-17 win as sophomore Spencer Horn (who led the Eagles with 21 kills while adding 27 digs) shined at the net and serving. But Dinuba’s defensive digging and passing improved considerably, and steady serving combined with the hitting of Lopez and Ashlee Orozco spurred 25-21 and 25-13 wins in the next two sets.
The Eagles overcame multiple digging and setting errors from that lull to even the match with a strong 25-16 win in the fourth set. Senior Faith Bakker and Horn delivered big kills, setting the stage for a fifth set battle to 15.
The visiting Emps made the initial surge to a lead, with a block by Cambria Alderete making it 9-6. Ava Regier’s ace serve brought Immauel back within 10-9, and a stuff block by Lily Hughes tied the score at 12. But after a net serve put Dinuba in front, Andrea Parra’s strong serve was netted on the return to bring it match point.
The Eagles pulled one final time within a point by gaining side out, but a dig attempt then sailed wide, setting off a happy celebration by Dinuba players and fans.
“I’m really proud of my girls and what they accomplished this season,” Immanuel coach Alyssa Den Hartog said. “Obviously [it was] not the ending we wanted, but they showed up and worked hard to get better every day. I’m proud of them for representing Christ well everywhere we went.”
Senior outside hitter Bakker finished her career with 14 kills and 13 digs, and was praised for her “amazing’ play by Perez. Senior libero and defensive specialist Allison Wood collected 27 digs.
In other first round matches:
Reedley 3, Minarets 2 — At O’Neals, the No. 13 seed Pirates also collected a big upset by toppling the No. 4 seed Mustangs (26-9-1) in a Division III first round matchup. Reedley (18-18) rallied from a 2-1 sets deficit to square the match in a 27-25 marathon set, the dominated the shorter fifth set by a 15-6 score.
The Pirates next travel to Madera on Thursday, Oct. 26 for a quarterfinal match against the No. 12 seed Coyotes, who swept No. 5 Hanford in three sets on Oct. 24.
Sanger 3, Sanger West 0 — In a Division III first round match at Nicholson Gym, the No. 2 seed Apaches (15-17) swept the No. 15 Hornets (27-8) in the first-ever volleyball meeting between the Sanger schools. Sanger West had been moved up from its base division after a strong second place showing in the North Yosemite League.
Sanger continues with a home match on Thursday, and will host No. 7 seed Independence of Bakersfield in a 6 p.m. start. The Falcons held on to edge Mission Oak in five sets.
Orange Cove 3, Wonderful College Prep 0 — The top-seeded Titans (19-12-1) swept the No. 16 Lions from Lost Hills to set up a matchup with regional rival Orosi High on Thursday, Oct. 26. The No. 9 seed Cardinals (14-11-1) went on the road and swept No. 8 Corcoran in three sets.