For the first time that anyone at Gavilan can recall, the women’s volleyball team is headed to the state playoffs following a three-set sweep of City College of San Francisco.
Gav avenged a five-set loss to CCSF from September with a 25-18, 25-22, 25-21 victory.
Gavilan advances to the State Championships, which will be held Dec. 3-4 at Pierce College in Woodland Hills. The Rams will open at 9 a.m. against No. 1 seeded Grossmont, who comes into the tournament with a 26-1 record.
“If you had asked me two months ago if we were going to state, it was something we were hoping for,” said coach Kevin Kramer. “But right now, I’m not sure where the ceiling is for these guys.”
Madison Hartman had her third highest kill total for the year, slamming home 23 kills on 46 attempts against two errors.
Elizabeth Pearce had 13 kills, her highest total since September.
Those two proved to be a brilliant answer for the dynamic duo of Jennifer Quarters-Styles and Kijana Best who helped shock Gavilan in five back on September 16.
“We knew they were good, but when we went to San Francisco, they just had a night. When you look at their stats, those two girls are something else,” Kramer said. “Our game plan was to completely focus on them and if they were going to beat us then they were going to beat us everything we had blocking.”
Those two had a combined 27 kills as CCSF managed to keep the score tight in spurts, but Gavilan overall proved to be too much.
But it was a freshman’s only kill that will be remembered at Gavilan.
Jenna Clonts found a soft spot in the middle of the court to drive home the final point. She threw her hands up in the air and the team rushed the court in celebration.
The party was on in the gym as the girls took photos, took videos for Snap Chat and had a lot of cheering mixed in.
“It means the world to us,” said libero Valerie Rodgers. “We’ve been working all year long for this one. We kept saying we’re working for state, we’re on the road to state and now that we’re finally here, all of our hard work paid off.”
This is the seventh-straight time Gavilan is in the Northern California playoffs and the first time the Rams have advanced out of the second round in that stretch.
The defense—led by Rodgers’ 31 digs—didn’t have many mistakes and helped to maintain Gavilan’s leads when the Rams went up.
Rodgers said the defense knew it was going to shake things up against San Francisco and it was just a matter of everyone giving what they had to make sure they advanced to the next round.
“I myself went in there saying no balls were going to drop ever. We worked too hard for this and we were putting all of our hearts out on the court and we left it like that,” Rodgers said.
Her coach didn’t miss the effort his defensive captain put out there.
“That girl has been working two years for this moment and I think she’s been holding it back for a night like this because she was amazing,” Kramer said.
Whenever Gav took a lead, it never trailed for the remainder of the games.
The closes CCSF came to stealing a set was in the second when it led Gavilan 8-5 and initially survived a Gav push to remain tied at 14-all.
But a pair of kills from Pearce put Gavilan up for good.
From there, Gav just out lasted CCSF, closing out the set with a 9-8 run to capture the second set 25-22 win.
Once Gavilan got some momentum, it was lights out.
Kramer said sometimes his players need a little reminding that it doesn’t always come easy and after a little punch in the mouth they seem to wake up. Even then, there was a date circled to get some revenge on CCSF.
“They’ve been looking forward to this one. They saw the matchup and knew if they got through Hartnell, they’d have another crack at these guys,” Kramer said. “They wanted that opportunity to play those two big boomers.”
In all three sets, when Gav got some steam, the lead slowly increased and San Francisco didn’t haven enough to come back.
And then there was the defense.
The back row out played CCSF’s back row, having fewer receiving errors and making great plays when errors did occur.
In the first set, a ball skipped off on the receive and sent Courtney Borja racing back to save the point.
Serena Adame got the ball over the net and an over pass from CCSF set up Pearce to make an emphatic statement with a kill at the net.
“Trusting in your teammates is the whole point. It makes us so much more of a family. It’s so much fun,” Rodger said.
The gym went nuts, the bench went wild and the team responded.
That kill sparked a three-point run that put Gavilan up 10-6 and San Francisco didn’t get any closer than two the rest of the way.
Gavilan needed a second to get back going in the second game, going down 6-3 quickly and eventually 8-5 before going on a six-point run, which included two Hartman kills and an ace from Rodgers.
Gavilan never trailed from that point.
Hartman stuffed an opening attack from CCSF for the first point of the third game and San Francisco only managed two ties from that point.
CCSF’s best run didn’t come until Gavilan was already up 22-15.
San Francisco went on a 6-3 run at the end but Gav just ran out the clock.
Now the focus shifts to getting ready for Grossmont and making a possible run at a state title.
“At this point we’re playing with house money, so we’re going all in,” Kramer said. “We’ve got to continue focusing on mixing it up offensively and getting our middles involved. Stay healthy. We have another seven, eight days to get through no matter what.”